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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2016 Jul;35(7):1617-26. doi: 10.1002/etc.3408.

Plastic debris and policy: Using current scientific understanding to invoke positive change.

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David H. Smith Conservation Research Program, Society for Conservation Biology, Washington, DC, USA.
School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cellular Biology, University of California Davis, Davis, California, USA.
US Environmental Protection Agency Region 9, San Francisco, California.
Department of Environmental Sciences, Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
IMARES, Wageningen, UR, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.


Captain Charles Moore introduced the world to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" in the mid-1990s, and images of plastic debris in the oceans began to sweep the media. Since then, there has been increasing interest from scientists, the public, and policy makers regarding plastic debris in the environment. Today, there remains no doubt that plastic debris contaminates aquatic (marine and freshwater) habitats and animals globally. The growing scientific evidence demonstrates widespread contamination from plastic debris, and researchers are beginning to understand the sources, fate, and effects of the material. As new scientific understanding breeds new questions, scientists are working to fill data gaps regarding the fate and effects of plastic debris and the mechanisms that drive these processes. In parallel, policy makers are working to mitigate this contamination. The authors focus on what is known about plastic debris that is relevant to policy by reviewing some of the weight of evidence regarding contamination, fate, and effects of the material. Moreover, they highlight some examples of how science has already been used to inform policy change and mitigation and discuss opportunities for future linkages between science and policy to continue the relationship and contribute to effective solutions for plastic debris. Environ Toxicol Chem 2016;35:1617-1626.


Hazard/risk assessment; Marine plastic; Microplastic; Policy; Weight of evidence

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