The occurrence of paraffin waxes floating in the southern North Sea

, Lorenz Claudia, Schafberg Michaela, Roscher Lisa, Meyer Melanie S., Primpke Sebastian, Kraus Uta R., Gerdts Gunnar.

Marine pollution occurs in many different forms. One more recently addressed emerging pollutant is paraffin wax (PW) as petroleum-based semi-solid. As such, PWs have been included in several monitoring guidelines and are regularly recorded washed-up on beaches. However, knowledge on their occurrence, particularly as persistent floaters of small size ( To investigate this matter, samples collected by net-sampling (100µm-mesh) at 24 stations in the southern North Sea, were screened for putative PWs. Particles (500–5000 µm) of certain wax-like appearance were detected at 14 of these stations. From six of these stations with the highest abundances, putative PWs with a similar appearance were pooled per station and analyzed by ATR-FTIR (Attenuated total reflectance Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy) and thermoanalytical methods, namely gas chromatography coupled with a flame ionization detector and coupled with a mass spectrometer (GC-FID and GC-MS). The pooled samples contained mainly PW particles, being partly accompanied by substances like fatty acids and fatty alcohols. Utilizing both analytical techniques provided a reliable detection of PWs and a more detailed understanding of their chemical composition. Furthermore, the presence of PWs of smaller size (20–500 µm) was proven exemplarily on the sample with the highest concentration of PWs by µFTIR imaging. This study gives valuable insights into PW pollution in the North Sea, further emphasizing the need for harmonized sampling and detection methods, ideally accompanying regular monitoring of microplastics.

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