Photo-oxidation of Micro-and Nanoplastics: Physical, Chemical, and Biological Effects in Environments

Yanghui Xu, Qin Ou, Jan Peter van der Hoek, Gang Liu*, Kim Maren Lompe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) are attracting increasing attention due to their persistence and potential ecological risks. This review critically summarizes the effects of photo-oxidation on the physical, chemical, and biological behaviors of MNPs in aquatic and terrestrial environments. The core of this paper explores how photo-oxidation-induced surface property changes in MNPs affect their adsorption toward contaminants, the stability and mobility of MNPs in water and porous media, as well as the transport of pollutants such as organic pollutants (OPs) and heavy metals (HMs). It then reviews the photochemical processes of MNPs with coexisting constituents, highlighting critical factors affecting the photo-oxidation of MNPs, and the contribution of MNPs to the phototransformation of other contaminants. The distinct biological effects and mechanism of aged MNPs are pointed out, in terms of the toxicity to aquatic organisms, biofilm formation, planktonic microbial growth, and soil and sediment microbial community and function. Furthermore, the research gaps and perspectives are put forward, regarding the underlying interaction mechanisms of MNPs with coexisting natural constituents and pollutants under photo-oxidation conditions, the combined effects of photo-oxidation and natural constituents on the fate of MNPs, and the microbiological effect of photoaged MNPs, especially the biotransformation of pollutants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-1009
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Microplastics
  • Photo-oxidation
  • Physical Effects
  • Photochemical Processes


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