Hsin-Chieh Kung1,2,3, Chien-Hsing Wu4,5, Nicholas Kiprotich Cheruiyot  2,6, Justus Kavita Mutuku1,2,6, Bo-Wun Huang7, Guo-Ping Chang-Chien This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1,2,6

1 Institute of Environmental Toxin and Emerging-Contaminant Research, Cheng Shiu University, Kaohsiung 833301, Taiwan
Center for Environmental Toxin and Emerging-Contaminant Research, Cheng Shiu University, Kaohsiung 833301, Taiwan
3 Department of tourism and recreation, Cheng Shiu University, Kaohsiung 833301, Taiwan
4 Division of Nephrology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kaohsiung Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital, Kaohsiung 83301, Taiwan
5 College of Medicine, Chang-Gung University, Taoyuan 33303, Taiwan
6 Super Micro Mass Research and Technology Center, Cheng Shiu University, Kaohsiung City, 833301, Taiwan
7 Department of Mechanical and Institute of Mechatronic Engineering, Cheng Shiu University, Kaohsiung 833301, Taiwan

Received: October 25, 2022
Revised: December 10, 2022
Accepted: December 13, 2022

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

Download Citation: ||https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.220362  

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Cite this article:

Kung, H.C., Wu, C.H., Cheruiyot, N.K., Mutuku, J.K., Huang, B.W., Chang-Chien, G.P. (2023). The Current Status of Atmospheric Micro/Nanoplastics Research: Characterization, Analytical Methods, Fate, and Human Health Risk. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 23, 220362. https://doi.org/10.4209/aaqr.220362


  • Microplastics (MPs) and nanoplastics (NPs) research in the atmosphere is still new.
  • There is no widely accepted characterization, but good proposals have been published.
  • There are no standardized sampling and analysis protocols developed.
  • The dominant shapes in ambient air are fragments and fibers.
  • Toxicity of MPs and NPs is related to the surface-bound contaminants.


Atmospheric plastic debris (microplastic and nanoplastic) research is comparatively little than in aquatic and terrestrial environments. Nonetheless, the research is important in understanding the risk and fate of these contaminants in the total environment. Generally, the research is limited by a lack of consensus on the characterization of plastic debris and the standardization of sampling and analysis protocols. These limitations make it difficult to compare results from studies. In response, criteria for defining plastic debris beyond size characterization have been proposed to include polymeric composition, solubility, physical state, shape, color, and origin. There are also emerging techniques, such as Py-GC/MS, which can measure smaller particles in the nanoscale range, and TGA-FTIR-GC/MS, which can accurately identify more polymers. The identification of microplastics and nanoplastics sources and formation processes is challenging. Since most polymers are inert, the adverse health risks include endocytosis and accumulation in the liver and spleen. However, most of the toxic effects of these contaminants are related to surface-bound compounds, including heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. Some polymers, such as expanded polystyrene, decompose to form carcinogens. This paper offers an overview of the current knowledge on plastic debris in the atmosphere and will be useful to researchers interested in this field.

Keywords: Contaminants release, Continuous fragmentation, Exposure pathway, Hetero-aggregation, Inhalable plastic debris, Sorption

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