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Microplastic atmospheric dustfall pollution in urban environment: evidence from the types, distribution, and probable sources in Beijing, China

Liu, Pengju, Shao, Longyi, Li, Yaowei, Jones, Tim ORCID:, Cao, Yaxin, Yang, Cheng-Xue, Zhang, Mengyuan, Santosh, M, Feng, Ziaolei and Berube, Kelly ORCID: 2022. Microplastic atmospheric dustfall pollution in urban environment: evidence from the types, distribution, and probable sources in Beijing, China. Science of the Total Environment 838 (1) , 155989. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155989

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Airborne microplastics (MPs) pollution is an environmental problem of increasing concern, due to the ubiquity, persistence and potential toxicity of plastics in the atmosphere. In recent years, most studies on MPs have focused on aquatic and sedimentary environments, but little research has been done on MPs in the urban atmosphere. In this study, a total of ten dustfall samples were collected in a transect from north to south across urban Beijing. The compositions, morphologies, and sizes of the MPs in these dustfall samples were determined by means of Laser Direct Infrared (LDIR) imaging and Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM). The number concentrations of MPs in the Beijing dustfall samples show an average of 123.6 items/g. The MPs concentrations show different patterns in the central, southern, and northern zones of Beijing. The number concentration of MPs was the highest in the central zone (224.76 items/g), as compared with the southern zone (170.55 items/g), and the northern zone (24.42 items/g). The LDIR analysis revealed nine compositional types of MPs, including Polypropylene (PP), Polyamide (PA), Polystyrene (PS), Polyethylene (PE), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Silicone, Polycarbonate (PC), Polyurethane (PU) and Polyvinylchloride (PVC), among which PP was overall dominant. The PP dominates the MPs in the central zone (76.3%), and the PA dominates the MPs in the southern zone (55.86%), while the northern zone had a diverse combination of MPs types. The morphological types of the individual MPs particle include fragments, pellets, and fibers, among which fragments are dominant (70.9%). FESEM images show the presence of aged MPs in the Beijing atmosphere, which could pose a yet unquantified health risk to Beijing's residents. The average size of the MPs in the Beijing samples is 66.62 μm. Our study revealed that the numbers of fibrous MPs increase with the decrease in size. This pollution therefore needs to be carefully monitored, and methods of decreasing the sources and mitigations developed.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0048-9697
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 May 2022
Date of Acceptance: 11 May 2022
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2023 14:25

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