Transport of persistent organic pollutants by microplastics in estuarine conditions

Microplastics represent an increasing source of anthropogenic contamination in aquatic environments, where they may also act as scavengers and transporters of persistent organic pollutants. As estuaries are amongst the most productive aquatic systems, it is important to understand sorption behaviour and transport of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by microplastics along estuarine gradients. The effects of salinity sorption equilibrium kinetics on the distribution coefficients (Kd) of phenanthrene (Phe) and 4,4’-DDT, onto polyvinylchloride (PVC) and onto polyethylene (PE) were therefore investigated. A salinity gradient representing freshwater, estuarine and marine conditions, with salinities corresponding to 0 (MilliQ water, 690 μS/cm), 8.8, 17.5, 26.3 and 35 was used. Salinity had no significant effect on the time required to reach equilibrium onto PVC or PE and neither did it affect desorption rates of contaminants from plastics. Although salinity had no effect on sorption capacity of Phe onto plastics, a slight decrease in sorption capacity was observed for DDT with salinity. Salinity had little effect on sorption behaviour and POP/plastic combination was shown to be a more important factor. (…)

Adil Bakir, Steven J. Rowland, Richard C. Thompson, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Volume 140, 1 March 2014, Pages 14–21

The article


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