Identification of microplastics in Antarctic seawater samples

Research has identified how microplastics are found in Antarctica by testing seawater samples, which they found paints and varnishes to be the main source of microplastics in the region’s sea

Researchers at the University of Basel and the Alfred Wegener Institute have studied how the Antarctic, although remote, has been disrupted by the growing problem of plastic pollution.

The study was carried out at the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research on the island of Helgoland and measured water from the Weddell Sea, a region with minimal human activity.

The research team led by Professor Patricia Holm from the University of Basel and Dr. Gunnar Gerdts from the AWI assumed that the remote Weddell Sea would have significantly lower microplastic concentrations.

Organisms can ingest these tiny microplastic particles and be damaged as a result

The researchers took 34 surface water samples and 79 underground water samples, and filtered a total of about eight million liters of seawater.

They discovered small amounts of microplastics in sea water. Although their measurements showed that the concentrations are only partially lower than in other regions of the Antarctic, they found that paints and varnishes are the main source of microplastics.

This suggests that ocean colors and shipping traffic are likely the main source of microplastics in the Southern Ocean. Shipping traffic in the Southern Ocean has increased over the years, primarily due to increased tourism and fishing, but also due to research expeditions like these.

Publication of their results in the journal Environmental science and technologyThe researchers first examined the plastic composition of the particles filtered from the seawater. They found that 47% of the particles that could be identified as microplastics were made of plastics that can be used as binders in ship paints.

Other microplastic particles identified were polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyamides used in packaging materials and fishing nets, as well as other marine-related substances. It was found that while researchers were able to identify the different plastics used, the exact origin or previous use of the microplastic fragments is unknown.

Previous studies of microplastics in Antarctica were done in regions with more research stations, shipping, and people and therefore found more microplastics in those areas, but this study wanted to identify microplastics in a remote region to illustrate how far the problem has spread.

Clara Leistenschneider, PhD student at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Basel: “It is one thing that microplastics occur in a certain region, but it is also important to know which plastics are present in order to identify their possible origin and, ideally, to identify microplastics. Reduce emissions from these sources. “

“This is one of the first studies of this size to be carried out in Antarctica”

In this study, over half of all sample fragments had visual characteristics such as the paintwork on the research vessel Pole Starthat the team was traveling on. The analysis showed that 89% of the 101 microplastic particles examined in detail came from the Pole Star. The remaining 11% came from other sources.

The researchers examined these fragments in detail using X-ray fluorescence to identify pigments and fillers, as the common method – Fourier transform infrared microscopy (FT-IR) – could not identify these substances.

In addition to binding agents, these fragments are an important component of paintwork and, together with their plastic content, are analyzed in forensics in order to identify, for example, cars in hit-and-run accidents. Chips of paint left on the scene of the accident are known as “vehicle fingerprints”.

Last cutter: “In order to determine the origin of paint particles, various comparison methods have to be used. By developing a more durable and environmentally friendly alternative ship paint, this source of microplastics and the pollutants it contains could be reduced. “

Only in this way is it possible to precisely remove paint fragments found in the environment from contamination by the Pole Star.

Read the full study here.

editorial staff Recommended items

Source link

About Thelma Wilt

Check Also

Climate Science: Greenwashing? What does this have to do with climate change? | opinion

No, this is not an article about the local laundromat or specialty detergents that work …