Ivleva, Natalia P., CHEMICAL REVIEWS (2021)
Microplastics and nanoplastics have become emerging particulate anthropogenic pollutants and rapidly turned into a field of growing scientific and public interest. These tiny plastic particles are found in the environment all around the globe as well as in drinking water and food, raising concerns about their impacts on the environment and human health. To adequately address these issues, reliable information on the ambient concentrations of microplastics and nanoplastics is needed. However, micro- and nanoplastic particles are extremely complex and diverse in terms of their size, shape, density, polymer type, surface properties, etc. While the particle concentrations in different media can vary by up to 10 orders of magnitude, analysis of such complex samples may resemble searching for a needle in a haystack. This highlights the critical importance of appropriate methods for the chemical identification, quantification, and characterization of microplastics and nanoplastics. The present article reviews advanced methods for the representative mass-based and particle-based analysis of microplastics, with a focus on the sensitivity and lower-size limit for detection. The advantages and limitations of the methods, and their complementarity for the comprehensive characterization of microplastics are discussed. A special attention is paid to the approaches for reliable analysis of nanoplastics. Finally, an outlook for establishing harmonized and standardized methods to analyze these challenging contaminants is presented, and perspectives within and beyond this research field are discussed.