BTO rapport - BTO 2020.050

Trendalert Making invisible plastics visible, water-soluble polymers in aquatic environments


Plastic waste has progressively entered our lives, but invisible, soluble polymers, have often been disregarded as focus is set on the environmental impact of their insoluble counterparts. Soluble polymers can follow several transport routes and can consequently be found in aquatic environments. By using three examples of polymers (polyacrylamides, polyvinyl alcohol and polycarboxylates), degradation, ecotoxicology, toxicology and analytical methods are presented and discussed. The goal of this literature review is to determine to which extent these polymers pose a threat to the environment and potentially, drinking water quality. Findings from this research show that developing adequate analytical methods to analyze soluble polymers in freshwater samples are still challenging. This highlights the importance of increasing awareness about the role that persistent water-soluble polymers might play in the environment.

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