Harmonization needed!

January 05, 2017

Since the first reports on a dramatic increase in microplastic contamination in the sea twenty years ago, research efforts have intensified worldwide. A review in the journal Angewandte Chemie has critically evaluated these studies and concludes that the analytical methods have to be harmonized to get comparable data. Further development is needed to assess particles in the lower micrometer range and below as well, as these pose the highest risks for aquatic ecosystems.

The review written by Natalia Ivleva, Alexandra Wiesheu, and Reinhard Niessner at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, starts with a remarkable observation (at least for an outsider). While marine ecosystems have been investigated extensively for around two decades and first attempts for (EU) standardization are made, results on freshwater environments are only emerging. Moreover, the obtained data for both marine and freshwater ecosystems are poorly comparable because of the very different analytical methods. However these data still point to a diverse, but no less alarming pollution situation in freshwater rivers and lakes.

The review describes the currently used analytical methods with their advantages and drawbacks. For example, the reader learns that the visual inspection of the samples (derived from sediment, water surface or bulk) still takes a prominent role although the chance of false (both positive and negative) results is very large. And the lower size limit for optical detection is recommended to be about 500 micrometers, whereas the most interesting--because probably the most harmful--microplastic particles and fibers are in the range down to one micrometer or even nanometers. On the other hand, spectroscopic techniques have been successfully implemented which can unambiguously characterize the quality of the plastic particle down to one micrometer, provided certain analytical requirements are met. The authors propose that these spectroscopic techniques, combined with the emerging thermoanalytical techniques, will provide reliable data in the future, but they need to be continually developed and optimized.

As their most important point, the authors call for a harmonization of methods. For an accurate assessment of the data, the sampling, processing, identification, and quantification of microplastic particles in aquatic environments have to be standardized, most desirably, worldwide, they say. Thus Ivleva and her co-authors present a list of nine arguments that have to be accounted for in the future if reliable conclusions on the risks of microplastics pollution can be made.

The authors also discuss the uptake of microplastics and its effects in living species, and they highlight the necessity of enhanced research efforts towards the distribution of plastic additives such as plasticizers, fillers, or flame retardants in the tissue, which are potential health hazards. Thus, the article adds important aspects to the ongoing discussion on microplastic pollution in marine and freshwater biotopes and presents valid solutions for future management.
-end-
About the Author

Dr. Natalia P. Ivleva heads the Raman group of the Chair for Analytical Chemistry of Prof. Reinhard Niessner and the Institute of Hydrochemistry, Technical University of Munich, Germany. Her research interests focus on the application of Raman microspectroscopy (RM), surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) and stable isotope RM for the nondestructive chemical 2D and 3D analysis of various environmental samples.

http://www.ws.chemie.tu-muenchen.de/groups/ramanmicro/team0/natascha1/

Wiley

Related Microplastics Articles from Brightsurf:

Sheep show the contamination by microplastics in the agricultural soils of Murcia
A team from the Diverfarming project has found microplastics in 92% of the faeces of sheep fed in intensive agricultural zones of Murcia that they analysed

Microplastics in the death zone
Researchers from the University of Plymouth's International Marine Litter Research Unit have identified the highest recorded microplastics ever found on Earth - at an altitude of more than 8,000 metres, close to the summit of Mount Everest.

There are microplastics near the top of Mount Everest too
Researchers analyzing snow and stream samples from the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition have found evidence of microplastic pollution on Mount Everest.

Microplastics in groundwater (and our drinking water) present unknown risk
Microplastics (plastics <5mm) and their negative health impacts have been studied in oceans, rivers, and even soils, and scientists are beginning to grapple with the myriad human health impacts their presence might have.

High levels of microplastics released from infant feeding bottles during formula prep
New research shows that high levels of microplastics (MPs) are released from infant-feeding bottles (IFBs) during formula preparation.

There is at least 10 times more plastic in the Atlantic than previously thought
Scientists measured 12-21 million tonnes of three of the most common types of plastic in the top 200 metres of the Atlantic.

'Critical' questions over disease risks from ocean plastics
Key knowledge gaps exist in our understanding of how ocean microplastics transport bacteria and viruses -- and whether this affects the health of humans and animals, researchers say.

Seafood study finds plastic in all samples
A study of five different seafoods has found traces of plastic in every sample tested.

Maldives records highest level of micro plastics on the planet
The amount of micro plastic pollution in waters around the Maldives, a global tourist hotspot known for its beautiful coastline, is amongst the highest in the world and has the potential to severely impact marine life in shallow reefs and threaten the livelihoods of island communities.

Plastics found in sea-bed sharks
Microplastics have been found in the guts of sharks that live near the seabed off the UK coast.

Read More: Microplastics News and Microplastics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.