Civil and Environmental Engineering


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Environmental Science & Technology 57 (2023), pp. 9782−9792.



Copyright © 2023 American Chemical Society. Used by permission.


This study investigated the release of microplastics and nanoplastics from plastic containers and reusable food pouches under different usage scenarios, using DI water and 3% acetic acid as food simulants for aqueous foods and acidic foods. The results indicated that microwave heating caused the highest release of microplastics and nanoplastics into food compared to other usage scenarios, such as refrigeration or room-temperature storage. It was found that some containers could release as many as 4.22 million microplastic and 2.11 billion nanoplastic particles from only one square centimeter of plastic area within 3 min of microwave heating. Refrigeration and room-temperature storage for over six months can also release millions to billions of microplastics and nanoplastics. Additionally, the polyethylene-based food pouch released more particles than polypropylene-based plastic containers. Exposure modeling results suggested that the highest estimated daily intake was 20.3 ng/kg·day for infants drinking microwaved water and 22.1 ng/kg·day for toddlers consuming microwaved dairy products from polypropylene containers. Furthermore, an in vitro study conducted to assess the cell viability showed that the extracted microplastics and nanoplastics released from the plastic container can cause the death of 76.70 and 77.18% of human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293T) at 1000 μg/mL concentration after exposure of 48 and 72 h, respectively.