Potential Artifacts and Control Experiments in Toxicity Tests of Nanoplastic and Microplastic Particles

Elijah J. Petersen, Ana C. Barrios, Theodore B. Henry, Monique E. Johnson, Albert A. Koelmans, Antonio R. Montoro Bustos, Joanna Matheson, Matthias Roesslein, Jian Zhao, Baoshan Xing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


To fully understand the potential ecological and human health risks from nanoplastics and microplastics (NMPs) in the environment, it is critical to make accurate measurements. Similar to past research on the toxicology of engineered nanomaterials, a broad range of measurement artifacts and biases are possible when testing their potential toxicity. For example, antimicrobials and surfactants may be present in commercially available NMP dispersions, and these compounds may account for toxicity observed instead of being caused by exposure to the NMP particles. Therefore, control measurements are needed to assess potential artifacts, and revisions to the protocol may be needed to eliminate or reduce the artifacts. In this paper, we comprehensively review and suggest a next generation of control experiments to identify measurement artifacts and biases that can occur while performing NMP toxicity experiments. This review covers the broad range of potential NMP toxicological experiments, such as in vitro studies with a single cell type or complex 3-D tissue constructs, in vivo mammalian studies, and ecotoxicity experiments testing pelagic, sediment, and soil organisms. Incorporation of these control experiments can reduce the likelihood of false positive and false negative results and more accurately elucidate the potential ecological and human health risks of NMPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15192-15206
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
Early online date14 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2022


  • artifacts
  • control experiments
  • measurement quality
  • microplastics
  • nanoplastics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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