Volume 5: Where Have All the Plastics Gone? Nanoparticles as Vectors of Environmental Chemicals (.pdf)


This is an ongoing work in progress.


Volume 5 of the Phenomenology of Biocatastrophe publication series is a topic-specific analysis of two components of chemical fallout, the subject of the detailed analysis in volume 3. This volume chronicles the research and commentary on two subjects:

• The breakdown of microplastics into plastic nanoparticles (PNPs) characterized by sorbed ecotoxins, including the wide variety of environmental chemicals produced by pyrotechnic-petrochemical man
• The nanoparticles (NPs), including nanoplastics, intentionally or accidentally produced by rapidly expanding nanotechnologies, their inherent toxicity, and their tendency to sorb and transport ecotoxins at the end of their life cycle

The extensive annotated bibliographies at the end of this volume constitute a detailed overview of these nanotoxins. Important research on environmental chemicals not included in volume 3, as well as other citations of interest, are also cited. The essays in this volume discuss anthropogenic nanotoxins as components of an unavoidable historic event: the unfolding Age of Biocatastrophe, the subject of this publication series.

The health physics impact of environmental chemicals associated with the Age of Plastic and the Age of Nanotechnology raise public safety issues of compelling contemporary interest to all concerned citizens. The research cited below explores the pathways and biokinetics of nanoparticles as anthropogenic ecotoxins including hormone disrupting chemicals (HDC) sorbed and transported by ultramicroscopic nanoparticles.

Volume 3 of the Phenomenology of Biocatastrophe publication series provides a comprehensive introduction to anthropogenic environmental chemicals. In particular, the essays (pages 6 through 74) begin with a description of the chemistry of ecotoxins and an overview of the major anthropogenic ecotoxins of interest. This introduction includes a detailed classification of petrochemicals and their sources. The 25 appendices in this text (page 126 to page 222) contain a detailed listing of environmental chemicals including those in food, water, and biotic media including humans. The subjects explored in this volume (5) of the publication series are thus a more detailed analysis of the behavior of the chemical fallout discussed in volume 3.

Classes of Nanoparticles

Naturally occurring nanoparticles (NONP): naturally occurring nanoparticles from forest fires and volcanic ash (< 2 mm) and colloidal particles in water, among many NONP.

Anthropogenic nanoparticles (ANP):
• Man-made nanoparticles: nanoparticles such as ultrafine particles (UFP) inadvertently produced by fossil fuel combustion and other anthropogenic activities.
Intentionally manufactured nanoparticles: carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, quantum dots, etc., produced for consumer products and medical and manufacturing uses. Manufactured nanoparticles (MNP), including manufactured nanoplastics, are produced using specialized molecular structures that may or may not incorporate non-plastic materials such as carbon, kaolinite clay, and metals.
Intentionally manufactured nanoplastics: nanoplastics produced using specialized molecular structures by nanotechnological industries.
Plastic nanoparticles (PNP): derived from the breakdown of microplastics in oceanic and terrestrial environments resulting from the production of over two billion tons of plastic since 1950.
This publication includes extensive annotated bibliographic citations that document the presence and impact of nanoparticles in the environment.


A fundamental goal of the 5th volume of the Phenomenology of Biocatastrophe publication series is to document the evolution of accidentally produced microplastic debris into plastic nanoparticles which sorb environmental contaminants such as organochlorines. As plastic debris decreases in size, its proportionate loading of ecotoxins increases due to its larger surface area per unit of mass, even as its physical presence becomes increasingly difficult to document as it translocates to higher trophic levels, often in pathways to human consumption. Included in this analysis is an overview of global plastic production, types, chemistry, and behavior in the environment, and its relationship with the many environmental chemicals produced by a global consumer society in which plastics of many varieties are a key component of its vast productivity.

A concurrent objective is an analysis of the ecotoxicity of nanoparticles which are constituents of intentionally manufactured nanotechnological products, and their behavior and dispersal in the environment. It should be noted that the term “nanoparticles” refers to particles < 1 µm. The size range of the products of the growing inventory of nanotechnological industries is 1 nm to 1 µm (see the reporting units section). Of particular note is the potential toxicity of non-plastic carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and quantum dots as they undergo dispersion and mass wasting at the end of their life cycles. Fullerenes, for example, also sorb ecotoxins and may move through the biotic environment in the same pathways as plastic nanoparticles. The focus of this publication is on the phenomenon of sorbed ecotoxins characterizing the devolution of microplastic debris into plastic nanoparticles, and the worldwide proliferation of nanoparticles due to the rapid development of nanotechnologies and their transport of ecotoxins in pathways to human consumption.

This volume includes information about the types of plastics which, when released to the environment, degrade into microplastic and then into plastic nanoparticle pollution. Recent estimates of worldwide plastics production produced by global consumer society are 288 million tons (Rossi 2014), with total production now exceeding 2 billion tons (January 1st, 2015). Also documented is the wide variety of endocrine disrupting ecotoxins sorbed and biomagnified by microplastics, plastic nanoparticles, and manufactured nanoparticles. This volume also includes a keyword index, a glossary, a guide to abbreviations, and numerous charts, graphs, and appendices. Annotations about the most important research publications on these topics are included in the bibliographies which follow. The biokinetics of ecotoxin transport by nanoparticles is a particular focus of this volume.

(image courtesy of Intertech-Pira, now Smithers-Apex)


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