Some of the countries that were the biggest backers of a global plastics treaty are pushing for microplastics to be a specific focus of negotiations.
"The science is clear and stronger global commitment on microplastic is needed," said Jannicke Graatrud, a Norwegian diplomat, addressing an April 6 United Nations forum. "For Norway, we believe the new global agreement on plastics pollution must include measures targeting microplastics."
She said her country and other Nordic nations are currently preparing a report on how microplastics should be considered in the new global agreement. Norway was one of the first nations to support a treaty, and she hoped their new report will elevate microplastics in the talks.
The diplomat spoke during a webinar sponsored by the United Nations, where officials from other countries also said the talks should consider microplastics.
About 175 nations decided at a U.N. Environment Assembly meeting in early March to move ahead with the plastics treaty talks. Nations will start hammering out details later this year.
The microplastics push comes amid increasing research and media attention, although scientists at the U.N. discussion said the potential human health and environmental impacts remain unclear.
Several panelists referred to a recent widely reported study that found microplastics in the blood in 80 percent of people tested. Researchers said they tested 22 people and found PET particles in 50 percent of people tested and polystyrene in a little more than one in three.
Vera Slaveykova, president of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Switzerland's University of Geneva, told the webinar that study does not prove harm but does have worrisome implications.
"This does not mean that it could have some effect but it's a clear suggestion that the microplastic can pass the biological barriers and can travel around the body," she said.
Another recent study said it found, for the first time, microplastics deep in lungs of people.