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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Microplastics could be marginally more hazardous than natural suspended solids - A meta-analysis

Ogonowski, Martin; Wagner, Martin; Rogell, Björn; Haave, Marte; Lusher, Amy


Microplastics (MP) are perceived as a threat to aquatic ecosystems but bear many similarities to suspended sediments which are often considered less harmful. It is, therefore pertinent to determine if and to what extent MP are different from other particles occurring in aquatic ecosystems in terms of their adverse effects. We applied meta-regressions to toxicity data extracted from the literature and harmonized the data to construct Species Sensitivity Distributions (SSDs) for both types of particles. The results were largely inconclusive due to high uncertainty but the central tendencies of our estimates still indicate that MP could be marginally more hazardous compared to suspended sediments. In part, the high uncertainty stems from the general lack of comparable experimental studies and dose-dependent point estimates. We therefore argue that until more comparable data is presented, risk assessors should act precautionary and treat MP in the 1-1000 mu m size range as marginally more hazardous to aquatic organisms capable of ingesting such particles.


Microplastic; Suspended solids; Mineral particles; Standardization; Meta-regression; Risk assessment; Hazard

Published in

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
2023, Volume: 264, article number: 115406