World’s production of plastics experienced a sustained growth, with 335 million tonnes of plastics being produced in 2016. The extensive application of plastic materials and improper management of plastic waste have led to a considerable amount of plastics released into the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Under the combined effects of environmental physicochemical and biotic factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation, mechanical abrasion and microbial action, plastic debris will progressively degrade into a myriad of microplastics (less than 5 mm in size). Microplastics pollution in aquatic environment has become a global issue. Although an explosive growth of studies regarding microplastics have been published in the past few years, to date, there is still a lack of standardized methodologies used for the detection of microplastics within environmental samples.
Under the guidance of Prof. WANG Jun, WANG Wenfeng from Wuhan Botanical Garden summarizes the currently used methodologies for sampling, extracting and identifying microplastics in three kinds of aquatic environmental matrices (water, sediment and aquatic biota) and includes a critical discussion of the advantages and limitations of these methodologies.
This article was published in TrAC-Trends in Analytical Chemistry entitled “Investigation of microplastics in aquatic environments: An overview of the methods used, from field sampling to laboratory analysis”. It was supported in part by Funding Project of Sino-Africa Joint Research Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Natural Science Foundation of Hubei Province of China.
Environmental behavior of microplastics (Image by WANG Wenfeng)