Is this your glitter? An overlooked but potentially environmentally-valuable microplastic

As microplastic pollution evolved to a well-established research field, microplastic scientists started to explore new avenues in the field. Yet, while a multitude of different types of microplastics (microbeads, fibres, fragments) have been well-documented in microplastic literature, our analysis of this literature shows that glitter particles have been overlooked by the field. However, due to the presence of glitter-based research in forensic science, we explore the idea that glitter may have the potential to act as “flag items” – or markers – of a likely source, due to the often complex and individual composition of glitter particles compared to traditional microplastics, such as microbeads. As such, this article demonstrates glitter has insofar been overlooked as a microplastic particle, and demonstrates that glitter may have an important role in explaining microplastic pollution dynamics from source to sink.

Alexander S. Tagg, Juliana A. Ivar do Sul, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 146, September 2019, Pages 50-53

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PAHs, pesticides, personal care products and plastic additives in plastic debris from Spanish Mediterranean beaches

In this study the role of plastic debris as a pollution vector has been evaluated by determining the concentrations of hydrophobic organic contaminants in polymers from three Western Mediterranean coastal areas as well as their potential transfer to seawater. Plastic debris was sampled at three Iberian Peninsula Southeastern beaches, each affected by different predominant anthropogenic activities (tourism, agriculture, urban activities, transport and industry). Plastic debris was characterized by attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared spectrometry. The organic contaminants were extracted from plastics by ultrasonic extraction with methanol and quantified by stir bar sorptive extraction coupled to gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). In two areas, the desorption of these contaminants from plastic debris to seawater during 24 h was also evaluated. The contaminant groups considered in this study (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), personal care products (PCPs), current use pesticides (CUPs), organochlorinated compounds (OCPs, including polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorinated pesticides) and plastic additives were found in polymers from the three areas. The most abundant contaminants were plastic additives and PCPs, underlining the relevance of the leaching of plastic components, and urban and tourism activities as typical pollution sources in the coastal areas. In general, large piece-to-piece variability was found for all polymers and areas mainly as a consequence of their different origin, exposition time, use and surface-to-volume ratio. This fact difficulted the visualization of significant differences between polymers or areas, but for CUPs, whose concentrations were significantly higher in Cape Cope than in the other areas due to the influence of close agricultural activities. PCPs and CUPs were desorbed partially in seawater for 24 h, particularly the most hydrophilic compounds such as triazines and other CUPs. However, a significant fraction of other contaminants (mainly PAHs) was retained, which suggests they can be transported far away from their origin.

V. M. Leon., I. Garcia-Aguera, V. Molto and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 670, 20 June 2019, Pages 672-684

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Exploration of microplastics from personal care and cosmetic products and its estimated emissions to marine environment: An evidence from Malaysia

This study aims understand microplastics from personal care and cosmetic products in Malaysia via quantification and characterization of microplastics together with emission estimation to marine environment. A total of 214 respondents from all over Malaysia were surveyed with identification of top ten personal care and cosmetic products usage. Particles found in facial cleaner/scrub and toothpaste were colored and colorless with majority of granular shapes. Particles in toothpaste were found between 3 and 145 μm while particles in facial cleaner/scrub were found to be between 10 and 178 μm, stipulating the presence of microplastics. Plastic polymers (LDPE and polypropylene) were found in all facial cleaner/scrub samples while only plastic polymers (LDPE) were present in toothpaste sample G. A total of 0.199 trillion microplastics are expected to be released annually to marine environment in Malaysia. Personal care and cosmetic products are seen as one of the microplastics sources for Malaysia and worldwide.

S. Mangala Praveena, S. N. M. Shaifuddin, S. Akizuki, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 136, November 2018, Pages 135-140

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Identification of microplastics using Raman spectroscopy: Latest developments and future prospects

Widespread microplastic pollution is raising growing concerns as to its detrimental effects upon living organisms. A realistic risk assessment must stand on representative data on the abundance, size distribution and chemical composition of microplastics. Raman microscopy is an indispensable tool for the analysis of very small microplastics (<20 μm). Still, its use is far from widespread, in part due to drawbacks such as long measurement time and proneness to spectral distortion induced by fluorescence. This review discusses each drawback followed by a showcase of interesting and easily available solutions that contribute to faster and better identification of microplastics using Raman spectroscopy. Among discussed topics are: enhanced signal quality with better detectors and spectrum processing; automated particle selection for faster Raman mapping; comprehensive reference libraries for successful spectral matching. A last section introduces non-conventional Raman techniques (non-linear Raman, hyperspectral imaging, standoff Raman) which permit more advanced applications such as real-time Raman detection and imaging of microplastics.

Catarina F. Araujo, Mariela M. Nolasco, Antonio M.P. Ribeiro, Paulo J.A. Ribeiro-Claro, Water Research, Volume 142, 1 October 2018, Pages 426-440

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Weathering impacts the uptake of polyethylene microparticles from toothpaste in Mediterranean mussels (M. galloprovincialis)

Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) were exposed over 21 days to polyethylene (PE) particles (0.01 mg ml−1; 50–570 μm) isolated from toothpaste. PE was deployed in the Outer Oslofjord (Norway) for 21 days, before exposing the mussels to both virgin (PE-V) and weathered PE (PE-W) particles. The mussels ingested both types of particles, but significantly more weathered particles were ingested than virgin (p = .0317), based on PE dosed by weight (mg ml−1) but not when considering particle number (PE-V: 1.18 ± 0.16 particles ml−1; PE-W 1.86 ± 0.66 particles ml-1;). PE particle ingestion resulted in structural changes to the gills and digestive gland, as well as necrosis in other tissues such as the mantle. No differences were found regarding the degree of tissue alteration between PE-virgin and PE-weathered exposures. This current study illustrates the importance of using weathered particles in microplastic exposure studies to reflect the behaviour of plastic particles after entering the marine environment. The observed tissue alterations demonstrate the potential adverse effects to mussels exposed to microplastic particles.

Inger Lise N. Brate, Mercedes Blazquez, Steven J. Brooks, Kevin V. Thomas, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 626, 1 June 2018, Pages 1310–1318

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Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK

Manufacturing ban means the tiny beads which harm marine life can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care product.

Plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, after a long-promised ban came into effect on Tuesday. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products and a ban on sales will follow in July. (…) (, 9/01/2018)

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Microplastics releasing from personal care and cosmetic products in China

Microplastics (MPs) have become a major global issue; their release from various products affects the aquatic environment, especially marine ecosystems. As a primary source of MPs, personal care and cosmetics products (PCCPs) containing MPs contribute to this environmental risk. We visited several supermarket chains in Beijing, China to identify PCCPs containing MPs. Overall, 7.1% of facial cleansers contained MPs, with an average weight of 25.04 ± 10.69 mg MP/g and average size of 313 ± 130 μm; whereas, 2.2% of shower gel products contained an average weight of 17.80 ± 7.50 mg MPs/g with an average size of 422 ± 185 μm. The majority of MPs were made of polyethylene, based on Raman and Fourier transform-infrared spectra analyses, while only a few were made of walnut shells and carbon particles. Finally, estimated 39 tons MPs were released into the environment based on PCCPs use in China based on available data.

Kun Lei, Fei Qiao, Qing Liu and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 11 September 2017, In Press

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