Large Accumulation of Micro-Sized Synthetic Polymer Particles in the Sea Surface Microlayer

Determining the exact abundance of microplastics on the sea surface can be susceptible to the sampling method used. The sea surface microlayer (SML) can accumulate light plastic particles, but this has not yet been sampled. The abundance of microplastics in the SML was evaluated off the southern coast of Korea. The SML sampling method was then compared with bulk surface water filtering, a hand-net (50 μm mesh), and a Manta trawl net (330 μm). The mean abundances were in the order of SML water > hand-net > bulk water > Manta trawl net. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) identified that alkyds and poly(acrylate:styrene) accounted for 81% and 11%, respectively, of the total polymer content of the SML samples. These polymers originated from paints and the fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) matrix used on ships. Synthetic polymers from ship coatings should be considered to be a source of microplastics. Selecting a suitable sampling method is crucial for evaluating microplastic pollution.

Young Kyoung Song , Sang Hee HONG , Jung-Hoon Kang , Oh-Youn Kwon , Mi Jang , Gi Myung Han , and Won Joon Shim, Environ. Sci. Technol., 48 (16), pp 9014–9021, 24/07/2014

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