Microplastics have come under increased scrutiny from academic researchers, non-governmental organizations, and regulatory agencies.  These small particles, often characterized as plastic materials less than 5 millimeters (mm) in diameter, have become a growing environmental concern due to their global ubiquity.

By 2024, regulatory initiatives to sample and monitor microplastics in food packaging and drinking water, respectively, will have begun in at least two states.  Meanwhile, new technical research on microplastics continues to be published at an exponential rate.

Plastic materials consist of long chains of organic polymers, or strings of small molecules (monomers) that are bound together in a repeating pattern, and are often derived from petroleum-based feed stocks.  Microplastic materials are produced for various industrial or manufacturing processes (termed “primary microplastics”).  In addition, environmental weathering may break down consumer products, such as clothing and textiles; paints and coatings; tires; and packaging of food, beverages, and other goods to generate microplastics (termed “secondary microplastics”).  As a result, microplastics consist of a wide range of sizes, shapes, and chemistries, which make characterizing their risk to human health and ecological receptors difficult.  In addition to their persistence and mobility, chemicals used as plastic additives or contaminants adhered to particle surfaces further complicate their environmental behavior and potential health effects.

Gradient is at the cutting edge of the evolving science on microplastics and regulatory actions to evaluate and monitor these materials, including in the State of California.  Our technical experts are leaders in the field, evaluating standardized methods to analyze emerging and existing contaminants and their environmental behavior and potential health effects.  Gradient has considerable experience in ecological and human health risk assessment, toxicology, environmental chemistry, spatial data analysis, and environmental fate and transport.  Our extensive knowledge base also includes product safety, regulatory support, and sustainability issues.


Trends:  Winter 2022 – Microplastics

News + Events
Microplastics Proposed Addition to California Department of Toxic Substances Control Candidate Chemicals List

California Develops Analytical Testing Methods for Microplastics in Drinking Water

Gradient Presenting at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America 42nd Annual Meeting

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