Microplastics in human environments: effect of atmospheric transport

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Microplastics in human environments: effect of atmospheric transport

Microplastics pose a serious threat to small marine living beings, which tend to feed on them, mistaking them for plankton. These minor organisms are in turn inserted into the food chain and ingested by larger living beings and their predators.

The chain can continue until it reaches our tables. Controlling the release of these plastics into the environment therefore means safeguarding marine fauna. Many marine animals such as seagulls or seals have ingested microplastics, affecting health.

Problems related to microplastics across the globe affect all animal and plant species, our oceans, the health of humans, soils and ice. The study: Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a subtropical urban environment, published on the Journal of hazardous materials, said us: "As an issue of great concern, microplastics pollution has emerged as a key environmental challenge of our time.

The atmosphere is a significant compartment in the global cycle of microplastics, however, studies on the transport and deposition of airborne microplastics is limited. In the present work, atmospheric wet and dry deposition of microplastics were analyzed over one year in an urban environment of megacity Guangzhou, China.

The atmospheric deposition fluxes of microplastics ranged from 51 to 178 particles / m2 / d (mean: 114 ± 40 particles / m2 / d). Fibers, fragments, films and microbeads were observed in the deposition samples, with fibers being the most abundant microplastics, accounting for 77.6 ± 19.1% of the total.

The chemical composition of microplastics were identified using micro Fourier transform infrared spectromete r. 78.7% of the fibrous microplastics were derived from petrochemicals and most were polyethylene terephthalate (polyester), suggesting that textiles (e.g., clothes and curtains) were likely the main source.

The results of back-trajectory analysis indicated that city rivers may act as secondary sources of airborne microplastics. Though no significant correlation was found between atmospheric microplastic deposition and meteorological factors such as rainfall and wind events, these factors were suggested to be positive drivers for the transport and deposition of airborne microplastic."