Sorption of pharmaceuticals and personal care products to polyethylene debris

Presence of plastic debris in marine and freshwater ecosystems is increasingly reported. Previous research suggested plastic debris had a strong affiliation for many pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and heavy metals. In this study, the sorption behavior of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), including carbamazepine (CBZ), 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC), triclosan (TCS), and 17α-ethinyl estradiol (EE2), to polyethylene (PE) debris (250 to 280 μm) was investigated. The estimated linear sorption coefficients (K d) are 191.4, 311.5, 5140, and 53,225 L/kg for CBZ, EE2, TCS, and 4MBC, and are related to their hydrophobicities. Increase of salinity from 0.05 to 3.5 % did not affect the sorption of 4MBC, CBZ, and EE2 but enhanced the sorption of TCS, likely due to the salting-out effect. Increase of dissolved organic matter (DOM) content using Aldrich humic acid (HA) as a proxy reduced the sorption of 4MBC, EE2, and TCS, all of which show a relatively strong affiliation to HA. Results from this work suggest that microplastics may play an important role in the fate and transport of PPCPs, especially for those hydrophobic ones.

Chenxi Wu, Kai Zhang, Xiaolong Huang, Jiantong Liu, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Volume 23, Issue 9, pp 8819-8826, May 2016

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