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

Pollutant content in marine debris and characterization by thermal decomposition

Marine debris (MDs) produces a wide variety of negative environmental, economic, safety, health and cultural impacts. Most marine litter has a very low decomposition rate (plastics), leading to a gradual accumulation in the coastal and marine environment. Characterization of the MDs has been done in terms of their pollutant content: PAHs, ClBzs, ClPhs, BrPhs, PCDD/Fs and PCBs. The results show that MDs is not a very contaminated waste. Also, thermal decomposition of MDs materials has been studied in a thermobalance at different atmospheres and heating rates. Below 400–500 K, the atmosphere does not affect the thermal degradation of the mentioned waste. However, at temperatures between 500 and 800 K the presence of oxygen accelerates the decomposition. Also, a kinetic model is proposed for the combustion of the MDs, and the decomposition is compared with that of their main constituents, i.e., polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), nylon and polyethylene-terephthalate (PET).

M.E. Iñiguez, J.A. Conesa, A. Fullana, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 117, Issues 1–2, 15 April 2017, Pages 359–365

The article

Influence of environmental and anthropogenic factors on the composition, concentration and spatial distribution of microplastics: A case study of the Bay of Brest (Brittany, France)

The concentration and spatial distribution of microplastics in the Bay of Brest (Brittany, France) was investigated in two surveys. Surface water and sediment were sampled at nine locations in areas characterized by contrasting anthropic pressures, riverine influences or water mixing. Microplastics were categorized by their polymer type and size class. Microplastic contamination in surface water and sediment was dominated by polyethylene fragments (PE, 53–67%) followed by polypropylene (PP, 16–30%) and polystyrene (PS, 16–17%) microparticles. The presence of buoyant microplastics (PE, PP and PS) in sediment suggests the existence of physical and/or biological processes leading to vertical transfer of lightweight microplastics in the bay. In sediment (upper 5 cm), the percentage of particles identified by Raman micro-spectroscopy was lower (41%) than in surface water (79%) and may explain the apparent low concentration observed in this matrix (0.97 ± 2.08 MP kg−1 dry sediment). Mean microplastic concentration was 0.24 ± 0.35 MP m−3 in surface water. We suggest that the observed spatial MP distribution is related to proximity to urbanized areas and to hydrodynamics in the bay. A particle dispersal model was used to study the influence of hydrodynamics on surface microplastic distribution. The outputs of the model showed the presence of a transitional convergence zone in the centre of the bay during flood tide, where floating debris coming from the northern and southern parts of the bay tends to accumulate before being expelled from the bay. Further modelling work and observations integrating (i) the complex vertical motion of microplastics, and (ii) their point sources is required to better understand the fate of microplastics in such a complex coastal ecosystem.

L. Frère, I. Paul-Pont, E. Rinnert, S. Petton, J. Jaffré, I. Bihannic, P. Soudant, C. Lambert, A. Huvet, Environmental Pollution, Volume 225, June 2017, Pages 211–222

The article

Combined effects of UV exposure duration and mechanical abrasion on microplastic fragmentation by polymer type

It is important to understand the fragmentation processes and mechanisms of plastic litter to predict microplastic production in the marine environment. In this study, accelerated weathering experiments were performed in the laboratory, with ultraviolet (UV) exposure for up to 12 months followed by mechanical abrasion (MA) with sand for 2 months. Fragmentation of low-density polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and expanded polystyrene (EPS) was evaluated under conditions that simulated a beach environment. PE and PP were minimally fragmented by MA without photooxidation by UV (8.7 ± 2.5 and 10.7 ± 0.7 particles/pellet, respectively). The rate of fragmentation by UV exposure duration increased more for PP than PE. A 12-month UV exposure and 2-month MA of PP and PE produced 6084 ± 1061 and 20 ± 8.3 particles/pellet, respectively. EPS pellets were susceptible to MA alone (4220 ± 33 particles/pellet), while the combination of 6 months of UV exposure followed by 2 months of MA produced 12,152 ± 3276 particles/pellet. The number of fragmented polymer particles produced by UV exposure and mechanical abrasion increased with decreasing size in all polymer types. The size-normalized abundance of the fragmented PE, PP, and EPS particles according to particle size after UV exposure and MA was predictable. Up to 76.5% of the initial EPS volume was unaccounted for in the final volume of pellet produced particle fragments, indicating that a large proportion of the particles had fragmented into undetectable submicron particles.

Young Kyoung Song, Sang Hee Hong, Mi Jang and al., Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, 2017

The article

Occurrence and Characteristics of Microplastic Pollution in Xiangxi Bay of Three Gorges Reservoir, China

Microplastic pollution in inland waters is receiving growing attentions. Reservoirs are suspected to be particularly vulnerable to microplastic pollution. However, very limited information is currently available on pollution characteristics of microplastics in reservoir ecosystems. This work studied the distribution and characteristics of microplastics in the backwater area of Xiangxi River, a typical tributary of the Three Gorges Reservoir. Microplastics were detected in both surface water and sediment with concentrations ranging from 0.55 × 105 to 342 × 105 items km–2 and 80 to 864 items m–2, respectively. Polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene were identified in surface water, whereas polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate, and pigments were observed in sediment. In addition, microplastics were also detected in the digestion tracts of 25.7% of fish samples, and polyethylene and nylon were identified. Redundancy analysis indicates a weak correlation between microplastics and water quality variables but a negative correlation with water level of the reservoir and Secchi depth. Results from this study confirm the presence of high abundance microplastics in reservoir impacted tributaries, and suggest that water level regulated hydrodynamic condition and input of nonpoint sources are important regulators for microplastic accumulation and distribution in the backwater area of reservoir tributaries.

Kai Zhang, Xiong Xiong, Hongjuan Hu and al., Environ. Sci. Technol., 2017, 51 (7), pp 3794–3801

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

Fast identification of microplastics in complex environmental samples by a thermal degradation method

In order to determine the relevance of microplastic particles in various environmental media, comprehensive investigations are needed. However, no analytical method exists for fast identification and quantification. At present, optical spectroscopy methods like IR and RAMAN imaging are used. Due to their time consuming procedures and uncertain extrapolation, reliable monitoring is difficult. For analyzing polymers Py-GC-MS is a standard method. However, due to a limited sample amount of about 0.5 mg it is not suited for analysis of complex sample mixtures like environmental samples. Therefore, we developed a new thermoanalytical method as a first step for identifying microplastics in environmental samples. A sample amount of about 20 mg, which assures the homogeneity of the sample, is subjected to complete thermal decomposition. The specific degradation products of the respective polymer are adsorbed on a solid-phase adsorber and subsequently analyzed by thermal desorption gas chromatography mass spectrometry. For certain identification, the specific degradation products for the respective polymer were selected first. Afterwards real environmental samples from the aquatic (three different rivers) and the terrestrial (bio gas plant) systems were screened for microplastics. Mainly polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) were identified for the samples from the bio gas plant and PE and PS from the rivers. However, this was only the first step and quantification measurements will follow.

Erik Dümichen, , Paul Eisentraut, Claus Gerhard Bannick and al., Chemosphere, Volume 174, May 2017, Pages 572–584

The article