Sources, pathways and reservoirs of microplastics, plastic particles smaller than 5 mm, remain poorly documented in an urban context. While some studies pointed out wastewater treatment plants as a potential pathway of microplastics, none have focused on the atmospheric compartment. In this work, the atmospheric fallout of microplastics was investigated in two different urban and sub-urban sites. Microplastics were collected continuously with a stainless steel funnel. Samples were then filtered and observed with a stereomicroscope. Fibers accounted for almost all the microplastics collected. An atmospheric fallout between 2 and 355 particles/m²/day was highlighted. Registered fluxes were systematically higher at the urban than at the sub-urban site. Chemical characterization allowed to estimate at 29% the proportion of these fibers being all synthetic (made with petrochemicals), or a mixture of natural and synthetic material. Extrapolation using weight and volume estimates of the collected fibers, allowed a rough estimation showing that between 3 and 10 tons of fibers are deposited by atmospheric fallout at the scale of the Parisian agglomeration every year (2500 km²). These results could serve the scientific community working on the different sources of microplastic in both continental and marine environments.
Microplastics, Urban environment, Atmospheric fallout, Microplastic sources, Synthetic fibers
Dris, R., Gasperi, J., Saad, M., Mirande, C., Tassin, B., 2016. Synthetic fibers in atmospheric fallout: A source of microplastics in the environment? Marine Pollution Bulletin 104: 290–293.
This study investigates the microplastic contamination of both urban compartments (wastewater and total atmospheric fallout) and surface water in a continental environment. These first investigations on an urban environment confirm the presence of microplastics in sewage, fresh water and total atmospheric fallout and provide knowledge on the type and size distribution of microplastics in the 100–5000-µm range. For the first time, the presence of microplastics, mostly fibres, is highlighted in total atmospheric fallout (29–280 particles m–2 day–1). High levels of fibres were found in wastewater (260–320 × 103 particles m–3). In treated effluent, the contamination significantly decreased to 14–50 × 103 particles m–3. In the River Seine, two sampling devices were used to collect both large and small microplastic particles: (i) a plankton net (80-µm mesh), and (ii) a manta trawl (330-µm mesh). Sampling with the plankton net showed a predominance of fibres, with concentrations ranging from 3 to 108 particles m–3. A greater diversity of both microplastic shapes and types was found during manta trawl sampling but at much lower concentrations (0.28–0.47 particles m–3). This combined approach could be relevant and implemented in future studies to provide an accurate overview of microplastic distribution in freshwater.
Atmospheric fallout, Freshwater, Rivers, Synthetic fibres, Urban environment
Dris, R., Gasperi, J., Rocher, V., Saad, M., Renault, N., Tassin, B., 2015a. Microplastic contamination in an urban area: A case study in Greater Paris. Environmental Chemistry 12(5): 592–599.