JOURNAL ARTICLE

Identification and Quantification of Microplastics in Wastewater Using Focal Plane Array-Based Reflectance Micro-FT-IR Imaging

Alexander S Tagg, Melanie Sapp, Jesse P Harrison, Jesús J Ojeda
Analytical Chemistry 2015 June 16, 87 (12): 6032-40
25986938
Microplastics (<5 mm) have been documented in environmental samples on a global scale. While these pollutants may enter aquatic environments via wastewater treatment facilities, the abundance of microplastics in these matrices has not been investigated. Although efficient methods for the analysis of microplastics in sediment samples and marine organisms have been published, no methods have been developed for detecting these pollutants within organic-rich wastewater samples. In addition, there is no standardized method for analyzing microplastics isolated from environmental samples. In many cases, part of the identification protocol relies on visual selection before analysis, which is open to bias. In order to address this, a new method for the analysis of microplastics in wastewater was developed. A pretreatment step using 30% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) was employed to remove biogenic material, and focal plane array (FPA)-based reflectance micro-Fourier-transform (FT-IR) imaging was shown to successfully image and identify different microplastic types (polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon-6, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene). Microplastic-spiked wastewater samples were used to validate the methodology, resulting in a robust protocol which was nonselective and reproducible (the overall success identification rate was 98.33%). The use of FPA-based micro-FT-IR spectroscopy also provides a considerable reduction in analysis time compared with previous methods, since samples that could take several days to be mapped using a single-element detector can now be imaged in less than 9 h (circular filter with a diameter of 47 mm). This method for identifying and quantifying microplastics in wastewater is likely to provide an essential tool for further research into the pathways by which microplastics enter the environment.

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