The presence of microplastics in commercial salts from different countries

The occurrence of microplastics (MPs) in saltwater bodies is relatively well studied, but nothing is known about their presence in most of the commercial salts that are widely consumed by humans across the globe. Here, we extracted MP-like particles larger than 149 μm from 17 salt brands originating from 8 different countries followed by the identification of their polymer composition using micro-Raman spectroscopy. Microplastics were absent in one brand while others contained between 1 to 10 MPs/Kg of salt. Out of the 72 extracted particles, 41.6% were plastic polymers, 23.6% were pigments, 5.50% were amorphous carbon, and 29.1% remained unidentified. The particle size (mean ± SD) was 515 ± 171 μm. The most common plastic polymers were polypropylene (40.0%) and polyethylene (33.3%). Fragments were the primary form of MPs (63.8%) followed by filaments (25.6%) and films (10.6%). According to our results, the low level of anthropogenic particles intake from the salts (maximum 37 particles per individual per annum) warrants negligible health impacts. However, to better understand the health risks associated with salt consumption, further development in extraction protocols are needed to isolate anthropogenic particles smaller than 149 μm.

Ali Karami, Abolfazl Golieskardi, Cheng Keong Choo, Vincent Larat, Tamara S. Gallowa & Babak Salamatinia, Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 46173 (2017)

The article

Microplastics in sediments of the Changjiang Estuary, China

Microplastics are plastics that measure less than 5 mm in diameter. They enter the marine environment as primary sources directly from industrial uses, as well as secondary sources resulting from the degradation of large plastic debris. To improve the knowledge of microplastic pollution in China, we investigated samples from 53 estuarine sediment locations collected with a box corer within the Changjiang Estuary. Microplastics (<5 mm) were extracted from sediments by density separation, after which they were observed under a microscope and categorized according to shape, color and size. Identification was carried out using Micro-Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (μ-FT-IR).

The abundance of microplastics in the Changjiang Estuary was mapped. The mean concentration was 121 ± 9 items per kg of dry weight, varying from 20 to 340 items per kg of dry weight. It was found that the concentration of microplastics was the highest on the southeast coast of Shanghai. The distribution pattern of microplastics may be affected by the Changjiang diluted water in summer. All of the microplastics collected were categorized according to shape, color and size. Among which fiber (93%), transparent (42%) and small microplastics (<1 mm) (58%) were the most abundant types. No clear correlation between microplastics and the finer sediment fraction was found. Rayon, polyester, and acrylic were the most abundant types of microplastics identified, indicating that the main source of microplastics in the Changjiang Estuary was from washing clothes (the primary source). It is possible to compare microplastic abundance in this study with the results of other related studies using the same quantification method. The identification of microplastics raises the awareness of microplastic pollution from drainage systems. The prevalence of microplastic pollution calls for monitoring microplastics at a national scale on a regular basis.

Guyu Peng, Bangshang Zhu, Dongqi Yang, Lei Su, Huahong Shi, Daoji Li, Environmental Pollution, Volume 225, June 2017, Pages 283–290

The article

Characterization and Analysis of Microplastics

This book aims to fulfill the gap on the existence of published analytical methodologies for the identification and quantification of microplastics. This overview includes the following main topics: introduction to the fate and behavior of microplastics in the environment, assessment of sampling techniques and sample handling, morphological, physical, and chemical characterization of microplastics, and the role of laboratory experiments in the validation of field data.

The characterization and analysis of microplastics is a hot topic considering the current need for reliable data on concentrations of microplastics in environmental compartments. This book presents a comprehensive overview of the analytical techniques and future perspectives of analytical methodologies in the field.

Comprehensive Analytical Chemistry, Volume 75, Pages 1-286 (2017), edited by Teresa A.P. Rocha-Santos and Armando C. Duarte, ISBN: 978-0-444-63898-4

The book

Ingestion of microplastics by natural zooplankton groups in the northern South China Sea

The ingestion of microplastics by five natural zooplankton groups in the northern South China Sea was studied for the first time and two types of sampling nets (505 μm and 160 μm in mesh size) were compared. The microplastics were detected in zooplankton sampled from 16 stations, with the fibrous microplastics accounting for the largest proportion (70%). The main component of the found microplastics was polyester. The average length of the microplastics was 125 μm and 167 μm for Nets I and II, respectively. The encounter rates of microplastics/zooplankton increased with trophic levels. The average encounter rate of microplastics/zooplankton was 5%, 15%, 34%, 49%, and 120% for Net I, and 8%, 21%, 47%, 60%, and 143% for Net II for copepods, chaetognaths, jellyfish, shrimp, and fish larvae, respectively. The average abundance of microplastics that were ingested by zooplankton was 4.1 pieces/m3 for Net I and 131.5 pieces/m3 for Net II.

Xiaoxia Sun, Qingjie Li, Mingliang Zhu, Junhua Liang, Shan Zheng, Yongfang Zhao, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 115, Issues 1–2, 15 February 2017, Pages 217–224

The article

Identification of microplastic in effluents of waste water treatment plants using focal plane array-based micro-Fourier-transform infrared imaging

The global presence of microplastic (MP) in aquatic ecosystems has been shown by various studies. However, neither MP concentrations nor their sources or sinks are completely known. Waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) are considered as significant point sources discharging MP to the environment.

This study investigated MP in the effluents of 12 WWTPs in Lower Saxony, Germany. Samples were purified by a plastic-preserving enzymatic-oxidative procedure and subsequent density separation using a zinc chloride solution. For analysis, attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FT-IR) and focal plane array (FPA)-based transmission micro-FT-IR imaging were applied. This allowed the identification of polymers of all MP down to a size of 20 μm. In all effluents MP was found with quantities ranging from 0 to 5 × 101 m−3 MP > 500 μm and 1 × 101 to 9 × 103 m−3 MP < 500 μm. By far, polyethylene was the most frequent polymer type in both size classes. Quantities of synthetic fibres ranged from 9 × 101 to 1 × 103 m−3 and were predominantly made of polyester. Considering the annual effluxes of tested WWTPs, total discharges of 9 × 107 to 4 × 109 MP particles and fibres per WWTP could be expected. Interestingly, one tertiary WWTP had an additionally installed post-filtration that reduced the total MP discharge by 97%. Furthermore, the sewage sludge of six WWTPs was examined and the existence of MP, predominantly polyethylene, revealed. Our findings suggest that WWTPs could be a sink but also a source of MP and thus can be considered to play an important role for environmental MP pollution.

S.M. Mintenig, I. Int-Veen, M.G.J. Löder, S. Primpke, G. Gerdts, Water Research, Volume 108, 1 January 2017, Pages 365–372

The article

Microplastics pollution and reduction strategies

Microplastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size are of increasing concern, especially in aquatic environments, such as the ocean. Primary source is microbeads (<1 mm) used in cosmetics and cleaning agents and fiber fragments from washing of clothes, and secondary source such as broken down plastic litter and debris. These particles are mostly made from polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyesters. They are ingested by diverse marine fauna, including zooplanktons, mussel, oyster, shrimp, fish etc. and can enter human food chains via several pathways. Strategy for control of microplastics pollution should primarily focus on source reduction and subsequently on the development of cost-effective clean up and remediation technologies. Recent research results on biodegradation of plastics have revealed a potential for microbial biodegradation and bioremediation of plastic pollutants, such as PE, PS and PET under appropriate conditions.

Wei-Min Wu, Jun Yang, Craig S. Criddle, Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, February 2017, 11 (1):6

The article

Large microplastic particles in sediments of tributaries of the River Thames, UK – Abundance, sources and methods for effective quantification

Sewage effluent input and population were chosen as predictors of microplastic presence in sediments at four sites in the River Thames basin (UK). Large microplastic particles (1 mm–4 mm) were extracted using a stepwise approach to include visual extraction, flotation and identification using Raman spectroscopy. Microplastics were found at all four sites. One site had significantly higher numbers of microplastics than other sites, average 66 particles 100 g− 1, 91% of which were fragments. This site was downstream of a storm drain outfall receiving urban runoff; many of the fragments at this site were determined to be derived of thermoplastic road-surface marking paints. At the remaining three sites, fibres were the dominant particle type. The most common polymers identified included polypropylene, polyester and polyarylsulphone. This study describes two major new findings: presence of microplastic particles in a UK freshwater system and identification of road marking paints as a source of microplastics.

Alice A. Horton, Claus Svendsen, Richard J. Williams, David J. Spurgeon, Elma Lahive, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 114, Issue 1, 15 January 2017, Pages 218–226

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