As part of the Water Institute's WaterTalks lecture series, Jacob de Boer, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology, Vrije University Amsterdam, The Netherlands, will present: Microplastics in the environment and pitfalls in their analysis.
This event will be offered in person on the University of Waterloo campus in DC 1302 followed by a reception from 3:30-5:00p.m.
During the last decade, the presence of plastics in the environment has received a lot of attention. There is a steep increase in the number of scientific papers on plastics in the environment and on microplastics (MP) in particular. In Europe research funding from the EU but also from industry has been redirected to the topic of (micro)plastics. Although data on microplastics are rapidly coming available, there is often serious doubt on the quality of hose data. Different from the analysis of chemical contaminants, there is also a physical component in the MP analysis. That enables e.g., the option of counting particles. However, it also causes a wide variety of methods being used, of which the mutual comparability is uncertain. One important aspect in the harmonization of MP analysis is homogeneity. This is a problem in the preparation of (certified) matrix reference materials for MPs, but also in sampling. Insufficient attention to proper sampling can lead to severe over- or underestimations of MP concentrations. Other pitfalls are in specific methods used for MP analysis such as pyrolysis-GC/MS. Although offering accurate MP concentration data together with the identification of many polymer species, chemical reactions during the analysis can seriously confound the final output.
International interlaboratory studies are currently ongoing, as well as several harmonization projects, which will hopefully lead to a better comparability of MP data. In addition to the analytical difficulties, MP data in several European surface waters will be shown and discussed.
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