While large quantities of studies on microplastics in the marine environment have been widely carried out, few were available in the freshwater environment. The occurrence and characteristics, including composition, abundance, surface texture and interaction with heavy metals, of microplastics in the surface sediments from Beijiang River littoral zone were investigated. The concentrations of microplastics ranged from 178 ± 69 to 544 ± 107 items/kg sediment. SEM images illustrated that pits, fractures, flakes and adhering particles were the common patterns of degradation. Chemical weathering of microplastics was also observed and confirmed by μ-FTIR. EDS spectra displayed difference in the elemental types of metals on the different surface sites of individual microplastic, indicating that some metals carried by microplastics were not inherent but were derived from the environment. The content of metals (Ni, Cd, Pb, Cu, Zn and Ti) in microplastics after ultrasonic cleaning has been analyzed by ICP-MS. Based on data from the long-term sorption of metals by microplastics and a comparison of metal burden between microplastics, macroplastics and fresh plastic products, we suggested that the majority of heavy metals carried by microplastics were derived from inherent load.
Jundong Wang, Jinping Peng, Zhi Tan and al.,Chemosphere, Volume 171, March 2017, Pages 248–258