In his recent Viewpoint, G. Allen Burton asks why “fellow scientists continue to focus on superficial microplastics risks” as “low exposure concentrations dictate there could be no risk”. He criticizes that scientists overstate the risks of microplastics, misinform the public, and “adversely influence” policy making. While we understand Burton’s frustration with at times sensationalist media reports on microplastics, we also agree with Hale that Burton’s risk assessment is premature. However, the current discourse reveals a much more fundamental issue, namely, that the disciplines of environmentaltoxicology and chemistry have yet to find their role inthe Anthropocene. The recent microbead bans are illuminatingfor this challenge: societies have decided to take action on anenvironmental “threat” before a scientific consensus on itsrelevance has evolved. We can either bemoan this as beingmisinformed or critically reflect on why our disciplines had littlesay in it. We do the latter and respond 3-fold to Burton’s “Why care?” question.
microplastics, environmental toxicology and chemistry, science, society, scientific opinion
Kramm, J.; Völker, C.; Wagner, M. (2018): Superficial or Substantial: Why Care about Microplastics in the Anthropocene? In: Environmental Science and Technology 52 (6), 3336–3337