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COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Prevalence of microplastics in Singapore's coastal marine environment

K L Ng, J P Obbard
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2006, 52 (7): 761-7
16388828
Microplastics have been recently identified as marine pollutants of significant concern due to their persistence, ubiquity and potential to act as vectors for the transfer and exposure of persistent organic pollutants to marine organisms. This study documents, for the first time, the presence and abundance of microplastics (>1.6 microm) in Singapore's coastal environment. An optimized sampling protocol for the collection and analysis of microplastics was developed, and beach sediments and seawater (surface microlayer and subsurface layer) samples were collected from nine different locations around the coastline. Low density microplastics were separated from sediments by flotation and polymer types were identified using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry. Synthetic polymer microplastics identified in beach sediments included polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, nylon, polyvinyl alcohol and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Microplastics were detected in samples from four out of seven beach environments, with the greatest quantity found in sediments from two popular beaches in the eastern part of Singapore. Polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene microplastics were also found in the surface microlayer (50-60 microm) and subsurface layer (1m) of coastal waters. The presence of microplastics in sediments and seawater is likely due to on-going waste disposal practices from industries and recreational activities, and discharge from shipping.

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