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Weathering pathways and protocols for environmentally relevant microplastics and nanoplastics: What are we missing?

Olubukola S. Alimi, Dominique Claveau-Mallet, Rafael S. Kurusu, Mathieu Lapointe, Stéphane Bayen and Nathalie Tufenkji

Article (2022)

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Cite this document: Alimi, O. S., Claveau-Mallet, D., Kurusu, R. S., Lapointe, M., Bayen, S. & Tufenkji, N. (2022). Weathering pathways and protocols for environmentally relevant microplastics and nanoplastics: What are we missing? Journal of Hazardous Materials, 423(A), p. 1-14. doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.126955
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To date, most studies of microplastics have been carried out with pristine particles. However, most plastics in the environment will be aged to some extent; hence, understanding the effects of weathering and accurately mimicking weathering processes are crucial. By using microplastics that lack environmental relevance, we are unable to fully assess the risks associated with microplastic pollution in the environment. Emerging studies advocate for harmonization of experimental methods, however, the subject of reliable weathering protocols for realistic assessment has not been addressed. In this work, we critically analysed the current knowledge regarding protocols used for generating environmentally relevant microplastics and leachates for effects studies. We present the expected and overlooked weathering pathways that plastics will undergo throughout their lifecycle. International standard weathering protocols developed for polymers were critically analysed for their appropriateness for use in microplastics research. We show that most studies using weathered microplastics involve sorption experiments followed by toxicity assays. The most frequently reported weathered plastic types in the literature are polystyrene>polyethylene>polypropylene>polyvinyl chloride, which does not reflect the global plastic production and plastic types detected globally. Only ~10% of published effect studies have used aged microplastics and of these, only 12 use aged nanoplastics. This highlights the need to embrace the use of environmentally relevant microplastics and to pay critical attention to the appropriateness of the weathering methods adopted moving forward. We advocate for quality reporting of weathering protocols and characterisation for harmonization and reproducibility across different research efforts.

Uncontrolled Keywords

AgingLeachateEcotoxicityASTM standardQuality criteriaContamination

Open Access document in PolyPublie
Subjects: 1000 Génie civil > 1000 Génie civil
1000 Génie civil > 1006 Génie hydrologique
1500 Génie de l'environnement > 1500 Génie de l'environnement
Department: Département des génies civil, géologique et des mines
Research Center: Non applicable
Funders: CRSNG/NSERC, Canada Research Chairs program, Killam Research Fellowship program, Petroleum Technology Development Fund of Nigeria, NSERC Banting Fellowship, NSERC postdoctoral fellowship, Mitacs Canada and Kemira for a postdoctoral fellowship, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2021 13:42
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2021 01:20
PolyPublie URL: https://publications.polymtl.ca/9147/
Document issued by the official publisher
Journal Title: Journal of Hazardous Materials (vol. 423, no. A)
Publisher: Elsevier
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.126955


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