PerspectivePollution

Microplastics research—from sink to source

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Science  06 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6384, pp. 28-29
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7734

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Summary

Research on microplastic pollution (small particles of plastic <5 mm in size) has long focused on their largest sink: the ocean. More recently, however, researchers have expanded their focus to include freshwater and terrestrial environments. This is a welcome development, given that an estimated 80% of microplastic pollution in the ocean comes from land (1) and that rivers are one of the dominant pathways for microplastics to reach the oceans (2). Like other persistent pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), microplastics are now recognized as being distributed across the globe. Detailed understanding of the fate and impacts of this ubiquitous environmental contaminant will thus require a concerted effort among scientists with expertise beyond the marine sciences.