Sampling strategies and analytical techniques for assessment of airborne micro and nano plastics

Aala Azari, Jeroen Vanoirbeek, F.G.A.J. Van Belleghem, Brent Vleeschouwers, Peter Hoet*, Manosij Ghosh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The atmosphere is pervasively polluted by microplastics and nano plastics (M/NPs) released into indoor and outdoor areas. However, various methodologies and their limitations along with non-standardization make the comparison of information concerning their prevalence difficult. Such diversity in techniques greatly limits the interpretation of results. Herein, We extracted data from publications on PubMed and Embase database up to the year 2022 regarding sampling strategies, identification methods, and reporting data for M/NPs quantification. In this review, 5 major areas for measuring airborne M/NPs have been identified including pre-sampling/ sampling/ post-sampling/ analysis/ and contamination avoidance. There are many challenges specific to each of those sections that need to be resolved through further method development and harmonization. This review mainly focuses on the different methods for collecting atmospheric M/NPs and also the analytical tools which have been used for their identification. While passive sampling is the most user-friendly method, the most precise and reproducible approach for collecting plastic particles is an active method which is directly followed by visual counting as the most common physical analysis technique. Polymers collected using visual sorting are most frequently identified by spectroscopy (FTIR; Raman). However, destructive analytical techniques (thermal degradation) also provide precise chemical information. In all cases, the methods were screened for advantages, limitations, and fieldwork abilities. This review outlines and critiques knowledge gaps, and recommendations to support standardized and comparable future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107885
Number of pages26
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date29 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Analytical methods
  • Atmosphere
  • Microplastics
  • Nano plastics


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