New methodologies for the detection, identification, and quantification of microplastics and their environmental degradation by-products


Sampling, separation, detection, and characterization of microplastics (MPs) dispersed in natural water bodies and ecosystems is a challenging and critical issue for a better understanding of the hazards for the environment posed by such nearly ubiquitous and still largely unknown form of pollution. There is still the need for exhaustive, reliable, accurate, reasonably fast, and cost-efficient analytical protocols allowing the quantification not only of MPs but also of nanoplastics (NPs) and of the harmful molecular pollutants that may result from degrading plastics. Here a set of newly developed analytical protocols, integrated with specialized techniques such as pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS), for the accurate and selective determination of the polymers most commonly found as MPs polluting marine and freshwater sediments are presented. In addition, the results of an investigation on the low molecular weight volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released upon photo-oxidative degradation of microplastics highlight the important role of photoinduced fragmentation at a molecular level both as a potential source of hazardous chemicals and as accelerators of the overall degradation of floating or stranded plastic debris.

Authors: Valter Castelvetro, Andrea Corti, Greta Biale, Alessio Ceccarini, Ilaria Degano, Jacopo La Nasa, Tommaso Lomonaco, Antonella Manariti, Enrico Manco, Francesca Modugno, Virginia Vinciguerra
; Full Source: Environmental science and pollution research international 2021 Jan 27. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-12466-z.