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Table 1 Ranking the characteristics associated with the four dimensions of microplastics that drive their toxicity. Rankings for polymer type are based on classifications in Lithner et al. [12]. Other dimensions are ranked based on the available literature and the authors’ understanding of the relative harm of each characteristic

From: Microplastics: a multidimensional contaminant requires a multidimensional framework for assessing risk

Ranking Size Shape Polymer type Environmental chemistry
0.1  > 1 mm Sphere PP, PVAc, cellulose pristine or relatively clean water body
0.3 0.1–0.9 mm (100-999 µm)   PS, LDPE, HDPE, PET  
0.4 0.01–0.09 mm
(10–99 µm)
0.5    Polyamide, EPS moderately polluted water body
0.6   Fragment   
0.7 0.001–0.009 mm (1–9 µm)   PC, PMMA  
0.9   Fiber PVC, PUR, ABS, rubber highly polluted water body
(e.g. wastewater effluent, highly populated, industrial, agricultural areas)