Quantification of selected microplastics in Australian urban road dust

, O’brien Stacey, Okoffo Elvis Dartey, Raeurt Cassandra, O’brien Jake W., Ribeiro Francisca, Burrows Stephen D., Toapanta Tania, Wang Xianyu, Thomas Kevin V..

Microplastics (1 - 5000 µm) are pervasive in every compartment of our environment. However, little is understood regarding the concentration and size distribution of microplastics in road dust, and how they change in relation to human activity. Within road dust, microplastics move through the environment via atmospheric transportation and stormwater run-off into waterways. Human exposure pathways to road dust include dermal contact, inhalation and ingestion. In this study, road dust along an urban to rural transect within South-East Queensland, Australia was analysed using Accelerated Solvent Extraction followed by pyrolysis Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (Pyr-GC/MS). Polypropylene, polystyrene, polyethylene terephthalate, polyvinyl chloride, poly (methyl methacrylate) and polyethylene were quantified. Microplastic concentrations ranged from 0.5 mg/g (rural site) to 6 mg/g (Brisbane city), consisting primarily of polyvinyl chloride (29%) and polyethylene terephthalate (29%). Size fractionation (¡ 250 µm, 250-500 µm, 500-1000 µm, 1000-2000 µm and 2000-5000 µm) established that the ¡ 250 µm size fraction contained the majority of microplastics by mass (mg/g). Microplastic concentrations in road dust demonstrated a significant relationship with the volume of vehicles (r2 = 0.63), suggesting traffic, as a proxy for human movement, is associated with increased microplastic concentrations in the built environment.

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