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Kayla Simpson

Field Toxicology & Environmental Monitoring

DBHSC 2032




Assessment of environmental microplastic sources across an urban environment


Ineffective plastic waste management and irresponsible discharge of plastic products have caused a surge in plastic pollution, thus leading to the accumulation of smaller plastic particles in the environment called microplastics. Microplastic particles are of concern as they have become ubiquitous in the environment and pose potential threats to the organisms exposed. Furthermore, the chemicals added to plastic products during production can leach into the environment and persist for long periods. As such, it is crucial to understand the sources of microplastic pollution in the environment to prevent their environmental release. However, current methods to identify sources of microplastic pollution are underdeveloped and lack a harmonized approach, making it challenging to compare data over time and across studies. As a result, there is a lack of accountability for plastic polluters, and it remains difficult to implement appropriate policies and regulations due to a lack of source information. Therefore, this study aims to establish harmonized and reproducible methods for accurate source identification of microplastics in the environment to inform policymakers and stakeholders and inspire microplastic management strategies. As such, the present study will visually characterize environmental microplastics under a stereomicroscope, and micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy will be used to confirm polymer compositions. Finally, using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry, microplastics from potential sources will be characterized for their chemical additive fingerprints. Environmental microplastic fingerprints will then be characterized and matched to the library of potential source plastics. Ultimately, this study's results are expected to link environmental microplastics to possible sources, thus providing information transferrable to policy implementation.

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