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Environmental problems - Chemical approaches
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Contaminant release from aged microplastic

Nicole Bandow A B , Verena Will A , Volker Wachtendorf A and Franz-Georg Simon A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM), Unter den Eichen 87, 12205 Berlin, Germany.

B Corresponding author. Email: nicole.bandow@bam.de

Environmental Chemistry 14(6) 394-405 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN17064
Submitted: 19 September 2016  Accepted: 6 July 2017   Published: 28 November 2017

Environmental context. Increasing global plastic production adds plastic debris to the environment. We show that potentially harmful additives present in plastic particles are released to water at an increased rate when material properties change by aging due to exposure to high temperature and especially to UV radiation. For risk assessment of such plastic additives, more information on their degradation products and their toxicity is needed.

Abstract. Recycled plastic granules of high-density polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene the size of microplastics were exposed to artificial aging conditions (2000 h; photooxidative and thermo-oxidative) to simulate their fate outdoors. Their potential to leach into water during the aging process was investigated using column percolation tests. Aging-related changes on the surface of the material were characterised by IR measurements indicating oxidation reactions with the formation of new adsorption bands (C=O, C–O and OH), especially in the case of photooxidative aging. These findings were confirmed by the identification of leachable organic compounds. Leaching of total organic carbon, Cl, Ca, Cu and Zn is clearly affected by changes due to aging, and their release is increased after photooxidative aging. In general, exposure to photooxidative conditions shows a greater influence on aging and thus on leaching and seems to be the more important mechanism for the aging of microplastic in the environment. Comparison with the total content of inorganic species revealed that, for most elements, less than 3% of the total content is released after 2000 h of photooxidative aging.

Additional keywords: column percolation tests, heavy metals, photo-oxidation, thermo-oxidation.


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