Microplastics pollution in inland freshwaters of China: A case study in urban surface waters of Wuhan, China

Microplastics have been considered as an emerging pollutant in the aquatic environment. However, research about microplastic pollution in inland freshwaters of China is insufficient. The present study investigated the levels of microplastics in surface water of 20 urban lakes and urban reaches of the Hanjiang River and Yangtze River of Wuhan, the largest city in central China. Microplastic concentrations ranged from 1660.0 ± 639.1 to 8925 ± 1591 n/m3 for the studied waters, with the highest concentration found in Bei Lake. Microplastic abundance in lakes varied markedly in space, and negatively correlated with the distance from the city center (p < 0.001), which confirmed the important role of anthropogenic factors in microplastic distribution. Urban reaches of the Hanjiang River and Yangtze River were found to have relatively lower levels of microplastics than most of the studied lakes. The major type of microplastics among the studied waters was colored plastic, with fiber being the most frequent shape. More than 80% of microplastics in number had a size of < 2 mm. Polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene were the dominant polymer-types of microplastics analyzed. This study provided important reference for better understanding microplastic levels in inland freshwaters.

Wenfeng Wang, Anne Wairimu Ndungu, Zhen Li, Jun Wang, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 575, 1 January 2017, Pages 1369–1374

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