Environmental pollutants such as microplastics have become a major concern over the last few decades. We investigated the presence, characteristics, and potential health risks of microplastic dust ingestion. The plastic load of 88 to 605 microplastics per 30 g dry dust with a dominance of black and yellow granule microplastics ranging in size from 250 to 500 μm was determined in 10 street dust samples using a binocular microscope. Fluorescence microscopy was found to be ineffective for detecting and counting plastic debris. Scanning electron microscopy, however, was useful for accurate detection of microplastic particles of different sizes, colors, and shapes (e.g., fiber, spherule, hexagonal, irregular polyhedron). Trace amounts of Al, Na, Ca, Mg, and Si, detected using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, revealed additives of plastic polymers or adsorbed debris on microplastic surfaces. As a first step to estimate the adverse health effects of microplastics in street dust, the frequency of microplastic ingestion per day/year via ingestion of street dust was calculated. Considering exposure during outdoor activities and workspaces with high abundant microplastics as acute exposure, a mean of 3223 and 1063 microplastic particles per year is ingested by children and adults, respectively. Consequently, street dust is a potentially important source of microplastic contamination in the urban environment and control measures are required.
Dehghani, S., Moore, F. & Akhbarizadeh, R., Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017)