Suspended microplastics in the surface water of the Yangtze Estuary System, China: First observations on occurrence, distribution

Levels of microplastics (MPs) in China are completely unknown. This study characterizes suspended MPs quantitatively and qualitatively for the Yangtze Estuary and East China Sea. MPs were extracted via a floatation method. MPs were counted and categorized according to shape and size under a stereomicroscope. The MP densities were 4137.3 ± 2461.5 and 0.167 ± 0.138 n/m3, respectively, in the estuarine and the sea samples. Plastic abundances varied significantly in the estuary. Higher densities in three sea trawls confirmed that rivers were the important sources of MP to the marine environment. Plastic particles (>5 mm) were observed with a maximum size of 12.46 mm, but MPs (0.5–5 mm) constituted more than 90% by number of items. The most frequent geometries were fibres, followed by granules and films. Plastic spherules occurred sparsely. Transparent and coloured plastics comprised the majority of the particles. This study provides clues in understanding the fate and potential sources of MPs.

Shiye Zhao, Lixin Zhu, Teng Wang, Daoji Li, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 86 (1-2), pages 562-568, September 2014

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