Co-occurrence of macroplastics, microplastics, and legacy and emerging plasticisers in UK soils

Billings, Alex; Carter, Heather ORCID:; Cross, Richard K. ORCID:; Jones, Kevin C.; Pereira, M. Glória ORCID:; Spurgeon, David J. ORCID: 2023 Co-occurrence of macroplastics, microplastics, and legacy and emerging plasticisers in UK soils. Science of the Total Environment, 880, 163258. 11, pp.

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Despite a theoretical link between plastic and plasticiser occurrence in the terrestrial environment, there are few empirical studies of the relationship between these contaminants in soils. We carried out a field study to assess the cooccurrence of plastic waste, and legacy and emerging plasticisers in UK soils (n = 19) from various land uses (woodlands, urban roadsides, urban parklands, landfill-associated). Surface plastics and soil microplastics were quantified and characterised using ATR-FTIR and μ-FTIR. Eight legacy (phthalate) and three emerging (adipate, citrate, trimellitate) plasticisers were quantified using GC–MS. Surface plastics were found at higher prevalence at landfillassociated and urban roadside sites, with levels significantly (2 orders of magnitude) greater than in woodlands. Microplastics were detected in landfill-associated (mean 12.3 particles g−1 dw), urban roadside (17.3 particles g−1dw) and urban parkland (15.7 particles g−1 dw) soils, but not in woodland soils. The most commonly detected polymers were polyethene, polypropene and polystyrene. Mean ∑plasticiser concentration in urban roadside soils (3111 ng g−1 dw) was significantly higher than in woodlands (134 ng g−1 dw). No significant difference was found between landfill-associated (318 ng g−1 dw) and urban parkland (193 ng g−1 dw) soils and woodlands. Di-n-butyl phthalate (94.7% detection frequency) and the emerging plasticiser trioctyl trimellitate (89.5%) were the most commonly detected plasticisers, with diethylhexyl phthalate (493 ng g−1 dw) and di-iso-decyl phthalate (96.7 ng g−1 dw) present at the highest concentrations. ∑plasticiser concentrations were significantly correlated with surface plastic (R2 = 0.23), but not with soil microplastic concentrations. Whilst plastic litter seems a fundamental source of plasticisers in soils, mechanisms such as airborne transport from source areas may be as important. Based on the data from this study, phthalates remain the dominant plasticisers in soils, but emerging plasticisers are already widespread, as reflected by their presence in all land uses studied.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - Official URL link provides full text
Additional Keywords: plasticiser, phthalate, microplastic, macroplastic, soil
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 19 Apr 2023 15:21 +0 (UTC)

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