Microplastic characteristics across environmental compartments

, Kooi Merel, Primpke Sebastian, Mintenig Svenja, Gerdts Gunnar, Koelmans Albert.

Environmental microplastic (EMP) consists of a mixture of particles with different sizes, shapes and polymer types. These characteristics drive transport, fate, exposure, effects and risks, so understanding the variability of these features is of paramount importance. Here, we combine EMP datasets obtained from samples from different environmental compartments, including marine and freshwater surface waters and sediments, waste water effluents, and freshwater organisms. All data have been produced through μFTIR mapping or imaging using state-of-the-art standardized automated analysis software (AAP/MPAPP/siMPle). A total of over 100 samples, containing information on individual particle properties including size, shape and polymer ID for over 40,000 particles, has been analyzed for patterns. We parameterized continuous distributions that describe the particle properties, on the sample as well as on the compartment level, and identify the statistical significance of inter- and intra-compartment differences. This includes testing if the distributions for size and shape differ per polymer type. Lastly, we check for correlations between the different properties. Aside from using these distributions as input and guidance for models and experiments, we explore for the existence of general scaling laws, which can be used for extrapolating (sub-)samples to the full microplastic spectrum.

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