BTO rapport - BTO 2020.047

A systems approach to understand microplastic occurrence and variability in Dutch riverine surface waters


“Assessment methods on data quality and environmental variability are lacking for microplastics (MP). Here we assess occurrence and variability of MP number concentrations in two Dutch rivers. Strict QA/QC procedures were applied to identify MP using Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) microscopy followed by
state of the art automated image analysis. For a series of randomly selected, yet ever smaller subareas of filters, we assessed how accurately MP numbers and polymer types are represented during partial filter analysis. Levels of uncertainty were acceptable when analysing 50% of a filter during chemical mapping,
and when identifying at least a subset of 50 individual particles with attenuated total reflection (ATR)- FTIR. Applying these guidelines, MP number concentrations between 67 and 11532 MP m3 were detected in Dutch riverine surface waters. Spatial differences caused MP number concentrations to vary
by two orders of magnitude. Temporal differences were lower and induced a maximum variation of one order of magnitude. In total, 26 polymer types were identified, the most common were polyethylene (23%), polypropylene (19.7%) and ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber (18.3%). The highest diversity
of polymer types was found for small MPs, whereas MP larger than 1 mm was scarce and almost exclusively made of polyethylene or polypropylene. Virtually all sampling locations revealed MP number concentrations that are considerably below known effect thresholds for anticipated adverse ecological effects.”

© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license

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