Emissions of microplastic fibers from microfiber fleece during domestic washing

Microplastics are found in marine and freshwater environments; however, their specific sources are not yet well understood. Understanding sources will be of key importance in efforts to reduce emissions into the environment. We examined the emissions of microfibers from domestic washing of a new microfiber polyester fleece textile. Analyzing released fibers collected with a 200 μm filter during 10 mild, successive washing cycles showed that emission initially decreased and then stabilized at approx. 0.0012 wt%. This value is our estimation for the long-term release of fibers during each washing. Use of detergent and softener did not significantly influence emission. Release of fibers during tumble drying was approx. 3.5 times higher than during washing.

U. Pirc, M. Vidmar, A. Mozer, A. Kržan, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, First Online: 22 September 2016

The article

Dangerous hitchhikers? Evidence for potentially pathogenic Vibrio spp. on microplastic particles

The taxonomic composition of biofilms on marine microplastics is widely unknown. Recent sequencing results indicate that potentially pathogenic Vibrio spp. might be present on floating microplastics. Hence, these particles might function as vectors for the dispersal of pathogens. Microplastics and water samples collected in the North and Baltic Sea were subjected to selective enrichment for pathogenic Vibrio species. Bacterial colonies were isolated from CHROMagar™Vibrio and assigned to Vibrio spp. on the species level by MALDI-TOF MS (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionisation – Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry). Respective polymers were identified by ATR FT-IR (Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform – Infrared Spectroscopy). We discovered potentially pathogenic Vibrio parahaemolyticus on a number of microplastic particles, e.g. polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene from North/Baltic Sea. This study confirms the indicated occurrence of potentially pathogenic bacteria on marine microplastics and highlights the urgent need for detailed biogeographical analyses of marine microplastics.

Inga V. Kirstein, Sidika Kirmizi, Antje Wichel, Alexa Garin-Fernandez, Rene Erler, Martin Löder, Gunnar Gerdts, Marine Environmental Research, Volume 120, September 2016, Pages 1–8

The article

Formation of microscopic particles during the degradation of different polymers

This study investigated the formation and size distribution of microscopic plastic particles during the degradation of different plastic materials. Particle number concentrations in the size range 30 nm–60 μm were measured by nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) and Coulter Counter techniques. Each of the plastics used exhibited a measureable increase in the release of particles into the surrounding solution, with polystyrene (PS) and polylactic acid (PLA) generating the highest particle concentrations. After 112 d, particle concentrations ranged from 2147 particles ml−1 in the control (C) to 92,465 particles ml−1 for PS in the 2–60 μm size class; 1.2 × 105 particles ml−1 (C) to 11.6 × 106 for PLA in the 0.6–18 μm size class; and 0.2 × 108 particles ml−1 (C) to 6.4 × 108 particles ml−1 for PS in the 30–2000 nm size class (84 d). A classification of samples based on principal component analysis showed a separation between the different plastic types, with PLA clustering individually in each of the three size classes. In addition, particle size distribution models were used to examine more closely the size distribution data generated by NTA. Overall, the results indicate that at the beginning of plastic weathering processes chain scission at the polymer surface causes many very small particles to be released into the surrounding solution and those concentrations may vary between plastic types.

Scott Lambert, Martin Wagner, Chemosphere, Volume 161, October 2016, Pages 510–517

The article

Determination of microplastic polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) in environmental samples using thermal analysis (TGA-DSC)

Microplastics are increasingly detected in the environment and the consequences on water resources and ecosystems are not clear to date. The present study provides a cost-effective and straightforward method to determine the mass concentrations of polymer types using thermal analysis. Characteristic endothermic phase transition temperatures were determined for seven plastic polymer types using TGA-DSC. Based on that, extracts from wastewater samples were analyzed.

Results showed that among the studied polymers, only PE and PP could be clearly identified, while the phase transition signals of the other polymers largely overlap each other. Subsequently, calibration curves were run for PE and PP for qualitative measurements. 240 and 1540 mg/m3 of solid material (12µm to 1mm) was extracted from two wastewater effluent samples of a municipal WWTP of which 34% (81 mg/m3) and 17% (257 mg/m3) could be assigned to PE, while PP was not detected in any of the samples. The presented application of TGA-DSC provides a complementary or alternative method to FT-IR analyses for the determination of PE and PP in environmental samples.

Marius Majewsky, Hajo Bitter, Elisabeth Eiche, Harald Horn, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 568, 15 October 2016, Pages 507–511

The article

Anthropogenic microfibres pollution in marine biota. A new and simple methodology to minimize airborne contamination

Research studies on the effects of microlitter on marine biota have become more and more frequent the last few years. However, there is strong evidence that scientific results based on microlitter analyses can be biased by contamination from air transported fibres. This study demonstrates a low cost and easy to apply methodology to minimize the background contamination and thus to increase results validity. The contamination during the gastrointestinal content analysis of 400 fishes was tested for several sample processing steps of high risk airborne contamination (e.g. dissection, stereomicroscopic analysis, and chemical digestion treatment for microlitter extraction). It was demonstrated that, using our methodology based on hermetic enclosure devices, isolating the working areas during the various processing steps, airborne contamination reduced by 95.3%. The simplicity and low cost of this methodology provide the benefit that it could be applied not only to laboratory but also to field or on board work.

Torre Michele, Nikoletta Digka, Aikaterini Anastasopoulou, Catherine Tsangaris, Chryssi Mytilineou, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 1 August 2016, In Press

The article

Plastic Debris in 29 Great Lakes Tributaries: Relations to Watershed Attributes and Hydrology

Plastic debris is a growing contaminant of concern in freshwater environments, yet sources, transport, and fate remain unclear. This study characterized the quantity and morphology of floating micro- and macroplastics in 29 Great Lakes tributaries in six states under different land covers, wastewater effluent contributions, population densities, and hydrologic conditions. Tributaries were sampled three or four times each using a 333 μm mesh neuston net. Plastic particles were sorted by size, counted, and categorized as fibers/lines, pellets/beads, foams, films, and fragments. Plastics were found in all 107 samples, with a maximum concentration of 32 particles/m3 and a median of 1.9 particles/m3. Ninety-eight percent of sampled plastic particles were less than 4.75 mm in diameter and therefore considered microplastics. Fragments, films, foams, and pellets/beads were positively correlated with urban-related watershed attributes and were found at greater concentrations during runoff-event conditions. Fibers, the most frequently detected particle type, were not associated with urban-related watershed attributes, wastewater effluent contribution, or hydrologic condition. Results from this study add to the body of information currently available on microplastics in different environmental compartments, including unique contributions to quantify their occurrence and variability in rivers with a wide variety of different land-use characteristics while highlighting differences between surface samples from rivers compared with lakes.

Austin K. Baldwin, Steven R. Corsi, and Sherri A. Mason, Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, September 14, 2016