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Microplastics in house dust from 12 countries and associated human exposure


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Global marine pollution by microplastics (MPs) has received considerable attention in recent years. Nevertheless, little is known about the occurrence of MPs in indoor environments. A novel analytical method was used to quantitatively determine polyethylene terephthalate (PET)- and polycarbonate (PC)- based MPs in 286 indoor dust samples collected from 12 countries. PET-based MPs were detected in all dust samples at concentrations of 38-120,000 µg/g (median: 5900 µg/g), whereas PC-based MPs were measured at <0.11-1700 µg/g (median: 8.8 µg/g). Significant positive correlations were found between the concentrations of terephthalic acid (a PET monomer) and PET as well as between bisphenol A (a PC monomer) and PC. Based on the concentrations of MPs measured in indoor dust, the median daily intake of PET-based MPs calculated for infants was in the range of 4000-150,000 ng/kg-bw/day.
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Microplastics in house dust from 12 countries and associated human
Junjie Zhang
, Lei Wang
, Kurunthachalam Kannan
Ministry of Education, Key Laboratory of Pollution Processes and Environmental Criteria, Tianjin Key Laboratory of Environmental Remediation and Pollution Control,
College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Nankai University, Tianjin 300350, China
Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, and Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, State University of New York at
Albany, Empire State Plaza, P.O. Box 509, Albany, NY 12201-0509, United States
Handling Editor: Adrian Covaci
Indoor dust
Polyethylene terephthalate
Human exposure
Global marine pollution by microplastics (MPs) has received considerable attention in recent years.
Nevertheless, little is known about the occurrence of MPs in indoor environments. A novel analytical method
was used to quantitatively determine polyethylene terephthalate (PET)- and polycarbonate (PC)- based MPs in
286 indoor dust samples collected from 12 countries. PET-based MPs were detected in all dust samples at
concentrations of 38120,000 µg/g (median: 5900 µg/g), whereas PC-based MPs were measured at <
0.111700 µg/g (median: 8.8 µg/g). Signicant positive correlations were found between the concentrations of
terephthalic acid (a PET monomer) and PET as well as between bisphenol A (a PC monomer) and PC. Based on
the concentrations of MPs measured in indoor dust, the median daily intake of PET-based MPs calculated for
infants was in the range of 4000150,000 ng/kg-bw/day.
1. Introduction
Approximately 8300 million metric tons of plastics have been pro-
duced worldwide since 1950 (Geyer et al., 2017). Microplastics (MPs)
refer to plastics with a size of < 5 mm (Arthur, 2008) that originate
from primary sources (e.g., plastic beads and synthetic bers deliber-
ately manufactured in microscopic size) and secondary sources (e.g.,
environmental degradation of large-sized plastic pieces that yield MPs)
(Rillig, 2012). The most commonly manufactured plastics are poly-
propylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET),
polystyrene (PS), polyurethane (PUR), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and
polycarbonate (PC) (Li et al., 2016). Following substantial production
and usage for decades, aquatic pollution caused by MPs has received
considerable attention in recent years (Dris et al., 2016; Qiu et al.,
2015; Su et al., 2016; Teng et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2017). However,
limited information is available about the occurrence of MPs in the
indoor environment (Cai et al., 2017; Dris et al., 2017; Liu et al., 2019).
Furthermore, quantitative assessment of human exposure to MPs is
PET is produced through the esterication of terephthalic acid
(TPA) with ethylene glycol, which is chiey used in textile industry and
in bottle production for food, water, and soft-drink packaging (ECI,
2016). The annual global production of PET (Fig. 1) was 53.3 million
metric tons in 2016 (ECI, 2016). PC is a polymer that consists of
building blocks of bisphenol A (BPA) linked by carbonate groups. PC
plastic is mainly used in medical care, electric, electronic, construction,
optical, automobile, and packaging applications (ECI, 2017). The an-
nual production of PC (Fig. 1) was approximately 4.4 million metric
tons in 2016 (ECI, 2017). A few studies have reported the toxic eects
of PET- and PC-based MPs. For instance, PET instigated irritation, dis-
comfort, tearing, and blurring of vision when contacted with the eyes
(TOXNET, 2019). PC-based nanoplastics increased the degranulation of
primary neutrophils in vitro (Greven et al., 2016). PET degradation in
the environment and human bodies can yield TPA (Nayebare et al.,
2018; Yoshida et al., 2016). Although TPA is reported to be relatively
less toxic (McLellan and Bhat, 2012), high production and usage of PET
and the resulting exposure to TPA remains a concern. BPA is utilized in
the production of epoxy resins and additives (Groshart. et al., 2001). As
a weak estrogen mimic, it is reported to occur widely in the environ-
ment (Le et al., 2008; Liao et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2015). Leaching
from PC plastics is an important source of human exposure to BPA. For
example, concentrations of BPA in human urine increased signicantly
following the use of PC bottles for over a week (Carwile et al., 2009).
A novel analytical method based on alkali-assisted thermal depo-
lymerization coupled with high-performance liquid chromatography-
tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS) was developed for accurate
Received 9 June 2019; Received in revised form 4 November 2019; Accepted 4 November 2019
Corresponding authors.
E-mail addresses: (L. Wang), (K. Kannan).
Environment International 134 (2020) 105314
Available online 19 November 2019
0160-4120/ © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
quantication of PET- and PC-based MPs (Wang et al., 2017). In this
study, the occurrence of PET- and PC-based MPs was determined in 286
indoor dust samples collected from 12 countries, with the aim to
quantitatively measure PET- and PC-based MPs and their monomers,
TPA and BPA, respectively, in indoor dust and to assess the contribution
of dust ingestion to MP exposure in humans.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Chemicals and reagents
TPA was purchased from Toronto Research Chemicals, Inc. (North
York, ON, Canada). BPA and D
-TPA (99%) were purchased from
Sigma-Aldrich (St. Louis, MO, USA).
-BPA (99%) was obtained
from Cambridge Isotope Laboratories (Andover, MA, USA). HPLC grade
methanol and water were supplied by J.T. Baker (Phillipsburg, NJ,
USA). 1-Pentanol was purchased from Fisher Scientic (Pittsburgh, PA,
USA). PET (35 mm) and PC (3 mm) particles were purchased from
Goodfellow Cambridge Ltd (Huntingdon, England). Oasis HLB (200 mg,
6 mL) solid-phase extraction (SPE) cartridges were purchased from
Waters (Milford, MA, USA).
2.2. Sample collection
From 2010 to 2014, 286 indoor dust samples were collected from 12
countries, comprising China (n= 39), Colombia (45), Greece (26),
India (33), Japan (5), Kuwait (18), Pakistan (25), Romania (21), Saudi
Arabia (30), South Korea (16), the USA (10), and Vietnam (18). Further
details of sampling locations can be found in the Supplementary
Information (Table S1). Floor-dust samples from bedrooms or living
rooms were collected from each country by using a vacuum cleaner or
by directly sweeping the oor with a nylon brush (only for the samples
collected from China and India). Multiple dust samples were collected
from each house or apartment and pooled into a single sample. After
sampling, the dust samples were wrapped in aluminum foil and stored
in sealed containers. All samples were sieved through a 150-μm sieve,
and samples below 150 µm in size were collected, homogenized and
stored at 4 °C until analysis. The eld blanks were prepared by exposing
aluminum foil to air during sampling (from three randomly selected
2.3. Sample extraction
Dust samples were depolymerized and extracted as described earlier
(Wang et al., 2017). Dust samples (50 mg; spiked with 500 ng D
and 200 ng
-BPA) were weighed and placed in a 100-mL round-
bottom ask, and 0.1 g of KOH and 20 mL of 1-pentanol were added.
The mixture was digested by heating at 135 °C in a stirring heating
mantle for 30 min. Then the mixture was allowed to cool down at room
temperature, and the pentanol solution was transferred into a 50-mL PP
tube. The ask was rinsed twice with 10 mL of HPLC grade water each
time, and the rinsate was transferred into the PP tube. The
depolymerized products of PET- and PC-based MPs were extracted from
pentanol by shaking the PP tube at 180 strokes per minute for 5 min in
an orbital shaker (Eberbach Corp., Ann Arbor, MI, USA) followed by
centrifugation at 1620gfor 5 min (Eppendorf Centrifuge 5804, Ham-
burg, Germany). The upper organic phase of pentanol was transferred
to another tube to which 20 mL of HPLC grade water was added, and
the extraction was repeated. The aqueous layer (water solution) that
contained TPA and BPA was combined to a total volume of 50 mL with
HPLC grade water. An aliquot of 10 mL of the solution was puried by
passing through a SPE cartridge (detailed information is provided in
Text S1).
The dust samples were also analyzed separately to determine the
concentrations of freely available TPA and BPA. Briey, 50 mg of dust
sample was weighed and transferred into a 15 mL PP conical tube. After
spiking with 250 ng of D
-TPA and 50 ng of
-BPA, the samples
were extracted with 5 mL of methanol by shaking in an orbital shaker
for 30 min. The mixture was centrifuged at 2880gfor 5 min, and the
supernatant was transferred into a new PP tube. The extraction step was
repeated twice with 5 mL of methanol, and the extracts were combined
and concentrated to approximately 1 mL under a gentle nitrogen
stream. The solution was diluted to 5 mL with a solvent mixture of
methanol and HPLC grade water at 2:8 ratio (v/v). One milliliter of the
diluted solution was centrifuged at 9030gfor 5 min and then transferred
into an amber glass vial for HPLCMS/MS analysis.
2.4. Instrumental analysis
TPA concentrations in extracts were determined with a Shimadzu
Prominence LC-20 AD HPLC (Shimadzu, Kyoto, Japan) interfaced with
an Applied Biosystems API 3200 electrospray triple quadrupole mass
spectrometer (ESI-MS/MS; Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA).
An analytical column (Ultra Biphenyl USP L11 3 μm, 100 × 2.1 mm
column, Restek Corporation, Bellefonte, PA, USA) connected to a
Javelin guard column (Betasil®C18, 20 × 2.1 mm) was used for LC
separation (Table S2). BPA was determined with an Agilent 1100 HPLC
(Agilent Technologies Inc., Santa Clara, CA, USA) interfaced with an
Applied Biosystems API 2000 electrospray triple quadrupole mass
spectrometer (ESI-MS/MS; Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA).
Betasil®C18 (100 × 2.1 mm) column (Thermo Electron Corporation,
Waltham, MA, USA) connected to a Javelin guard column (Betasil®C18,
20 × 2.1 mm) was utilized for LC separation (Table S2). The negative
ion multiple reaction monitoring mode was applied. Table S3 presents
detailed information of MS/MS parameters used in the analysis.
2.5. Quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC)
The eld blanks did not contain free BPA, PC, free TPA and PET at
concentrations above the method quantication limits (MQLs).
Recovery experiments were conducted using soil dispersed on oors
that were swept three times or vacuumed three times separately. The
recoveries of PET and PC through the sweeping method of sampling
were 92.3 ± 5.9% and 75.8 ± 15.0%, respectively. The recoveries of
Fig. 1. Chemical structures of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC) and their monomers, terephthalic acid (TPA) and bisphenol A (BPA).
J. Zhang, et al. Environment International 134 (2020) 105314
PET and PC by vacuum cleaner method of sampling were 64.0 ± 7.7%
and 44.7 ± 21.4%, respectively (Fig. S1). Lower recoveries of PET and
PC in vacuum cleaner collected dust were due to the sorption of target
chemicals to the vacuum cleaner bags.
Recoveries of TPA and BPA in spiked dust matrices were
105 ± 5.9% and 92.6 ± 10.7%, respectively (Table S4). Procedural
blanks were analyzed with every batch of 1520 samples. The mean
value of TPA found in procedural blanks analyzed through depoly-
merization methods was 2.6 ± 0.62 µg/g, whereas that through the
methanol-extraction method was 0.14 ± 0.01 µg/g. BPA was not found
in procedural blanks at concentrations above the MQLs. Background
subtraction was performed in the quantication of TPA concentrations
in samples. Depolymerization eciency was tested by fortifying PET
and PC particles in indoor dust and analyzed the above method. The
recoveries of PET and PC fortied into samples were > 95%. The
round-bottom asks were mued at 450 °C for 12 h and rinsed with
acetone and methanol prior to use (to prevent carryover; this was re-
quired due to high concentrations of PET found in indoor dust).
Duplicate analysis of randomly selected samples showed a coecient
variation of < 10% for TPA and BPA. The MQLs were 0.05 and 0.10 µg/
g for free and depolymerized BPA, respectively (Table S4), as calculated
from the lowest acceptable calibration standard and a nominal sample
weight of 0.05 g. Due to the high background levels of TPA, MQLs of
free and depolymerized TPA were 0.18 and 4.6 µg/g, respectively,
which were based on the mean concentrations in procedural blanks and
standard deviation measured at low concentrations (Armbruster and
Pry, 2008). The MQLs of PET and PC were 5.3 and 0.11 µg/g, as cal-
culated by the corresponding MQLs of depolymerized TPA and BPA,
respectively (Wang et al., 2017). A midpoint calibration standard was
injected as a check for instrumental drift in sensitivity after every 20
samples, and a pure solvent was injected as a check for carry-over of the
target chemicals from sample to sample. Instrumental calibration was
veried by the injection of 10 calibration standards, and the regression
coecient of the calibration curve (r) was > 0.99. TPA and BPA con-
centrations in the fourth extraction with methanol for 15 randomly
selected dust samples were < 1% of the concentrations found in the
rst three extractions, thereby indicating that the three extraction cy-
cles almost completely extracted the target chemicals. Extracts were
diluted and reanalyzed for those samples with concentrations above the
upper limit of the calibration curve. The concentrations of PET- and PC-
based MPs were calculated by the (C
) of TPA and
BPA, divided by 0.90 and 0.86, respectively (Wang et al., 2017).
2.6. Statistical analysis
Statistical analyses were performed using Origin version 9.0
(OriginLab, Northampton, MA, USA) and SPSS 16 (IBM, Armonk, NY,
USA) software. Concentrations below the MQLs were substituted with a
value equal to the MQLs divided by the square root of 2 to calculate the
mean. Prior to one-way ANOVA and Pearson correlation analysis, the
data were ln-transformed to meet the normality assumptions. The
probability value of p< 0.05 was set for statistical signicance.
The daily intake (EDI) of PET- and PC-based MPs and their corre-
sponding monomers in toddlers (15 years), children (611 years),
teenagers (1219 years), and adults (20 years) through indoor dust
ingestion was calculated as shown in Eqn 1:
where mis the indoor dust ingestion rate (g/day), BW is the body
weight (kg), and Cis the concentration of MPs in dust. The mean dust
ingestion rates used in this calculation were 0.03 g/day for infants (< 1
year) and 0.06 g/day for toddlers (15 years), children (611 years) and
teenagers (1219 years), and 0.03 g/day for adults (20 years)
(USEPA, 2011). The average body weights reported for infants, tod-
dlers, children, teenagers, and adults in western countries (United
States, Colombia, Greece, and Romania) were 7.0, 15, 32, 64, and
80 kg, respectively (USEPA, 2011), whereas the corresponding values
for Asian countries (China, South Korea, Japan, India, Pakistan, Kuwait,
Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia) were 5, 19, 29, 53, and 63 kg, respectively
(Guo and Kannan, 2011; Liao et al., 2012).
3. Results
The concentrations of PET and PC were corrected by the recoveries
of dierent sampling methods. Details of the uncorrected data are
shown in Table S5 in the supplementary material.
3.1. PET-based MPs and TPA in indoor dust
PET-based MPs were found in all 286 dust samples at concentrations
in the range of 29110,000 µg/g. The median concentrations of PET-
based MPs in indoor dust varied by two orders of magnitude among the
countries studied, in the following order: South Korea (25,000 µg/
g) > Japan (23,000 µg/g) > Saudi Arabia (13,000 µg/g) > Greece
(9700 µg/g) > Romania (9100 µg/g) > the United States (8900 µg/
g) > Kuwait (8600 µg/g) > Vietnam (3900 µg/g) > China (3700 µg/
g) > Pakistan (1900 µg/g) > India (1600 µg/g) > Colombia
(1000 µg/g) (Fig. 2). One dust sample from China contained the highest
concentration of PET at 120,000 µg/g, an amount which was 12% of the
total mass of dust.
Free TPA was also found in most dust samples, except for one
sample from Vietnam, two samples from Pakistan, and 10 samples from
Colombia. The median concentrations of TPA in dust samples from the
12 countries ranged from 2.0 µg/g (Pakistan) to 34 µg/g (Japan) (Fig.
S2). The highest TPA concentration of 200 µg/g was found in a dust
sample from India (Table 1). A signicant positive correlation was
presented between the concentrations of TPA and PET-based MPs
(r= 0.512, p= 0.000) (Fig. 3). The median concentration ratios of TPA
to PET-based MPs in dust were 0.00050.0040.
3.2. PC-based MPs and BPA in indoor dust
The detection rate (DR) of PC-based MPs in dust samples was 99.3%
with a concentration range of < 0.111700 µg/g (Table 1). Among the
12 countries studied, dust samples from Saudi Arabia (2.5190 µg/g,
median: 45 µg/g) and South Korea (6.7140 µg/g, median: 38 µg/g)
contained the highest concentrations of PC (Fig. 2). Relatively high
concentrations of PC-based MPs were also found in dust samples from
India and Vietnam. The annual production of PC plastics was 2.0, 1.5,
and 0.9 million metric tons in Asia, Europe, and the United States, re-
spectively (ECI, 2017).
Free BPA was also found in dust samples at concentrations of <
0.0536 µg/g. Except for China (95%), Vietnam (94%), Colombia
(93%), India (82%), and Pakistan (76%), the DR of BPA in dust from the
remaining seven countries was 100%. A signicant positive correlation
(r= 0.677, p= 0.000) was found between the concentrations of free
BPA and PC-based MPs in indoor dust (Fig. 3). The median con-
centration ratios of BPA to PC-based MPs in dust samples were
3.3. Factors that aect MP concentrations in indoor dust
Dust samples collected from homes in Pakistan were stratied as
rural (n= 13) and urban (n= 12). Concentrations of PC-based MPs in
rural homes were signicantly lower than those in urban homes
(p< 0.05, one-way ANOVA). Similarly, concentrations of PET-based
MPs in dust from urban homes were higher than those from rural homes
(p= 0.069, one-way ANOVA). A signicant positive correlation was
found between the concentrations of MPs and gross domestic product
(GDP) per capita of the 12 countries (r= 0.771, p= 0.003 for PET and
GDP per capita; r= 0.597, p= 0.041 for PC and GDP per capita) (Fig.
J. Zhang, et al. Environment International 134 (2020) 105314
S3). A wide range of environmental contaminants have been identied
in indoor dust collected from the United States (Guo and Kannan, 2011;
Johnson-Restrepo and Kannan, 2009; Kannan et al., 2010; Qian, 2013;
Tran et al., 2015; Tue et al., 2013; Wan et al., 2015; Wang et al., 2013;
Wang et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2015; Wang et al., 2016; Zhu and
Kannan, 2018), among which PET-based MP showed the highest con-
centrations (Fig. 4). In addition, a signicant positive correlation was
found between the median concentrations of TBBPA and MPs
(r = 0.858, p= 0.000) and SPAs and MPs (r = 0.822, p= 0.001) (Fig.
S4) in indoor dust.
3.4. Human exposure to MPs
Dust ingestion is an important route of human exposure to several
environmental pollutants (USEPA, 2011). The median EDI (EDI
values of PET- and PC-based MPs in the 12 countries were in the ranges
of 360150,000 and 0.88270 ng/kg-bw/day, respectively. The EDI
of MPs decreased with the increasing age (Table 2). The EDI
for infants were tenfold higher than those for adults. The EDI
of MPs through dust ingestion for all age groups in Saudi Arabia, South
Korea, and Japan were signicantly higher than those in Colombia,
Pakistan, and India. The EDI
of free TPA through dust ingestion
ranged from 11 to 200 ng/kg-bw/day for infants and 0.96 to 9.4ng/kg-
Fig. 2. Distribution of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC)-based microplastics in indoor dust collected from 12 countries (median con-
centration, µg/g).
Table 1
Concentrations of free terephthalic acid (TPA) and free bisphenol A (BPA), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC)-based microplastics in
indoor dust from 12 countries (µg/g).
China mean 18 9200 1.1 18 Pakistan mean 8.1 4400 0.49 6.0
n = 39 median 14 3700 0.61 6.6 n = 25 median 2 1900 0.26 3.4
min 2.1 38 < 0.05 0.38 min < 0.18 45 < 0.05 < 0.11
max 79 120,000 5.2 170 max 47 38,000 3.1 49
Colombia mean 9 3900 1.3 11 Romania mean 7.8 14,000 3.7 15
n = 45 median 3 1000 0.75 5.6 n = 21 median 4.5 9100 2.6 7.2
min < 0.18 140 < 0.05 0.65 min 1.8 2200 0.9 0.98
max 94 22,000 5.1 110 max 54 73,000 12 110
Greece mean 12 15,000 6.4 34 Saudi Arabia mean 16 20,000 4.1 58
n = 26 median 8.3 9700 5.7 21 n = 30 median 9 13,000 3.9 45
min 3.6 2300 2.1 4.9 min 1.9 1500 0.57 2.5
max 76 80,000 22 110 max 56 52,000 17 190
India mean 12 2000 0.71 20 South Korea mean 20 27,000 8.2 54
n = 33 median 3.1 1600 0.31 1.8 n = 16 median 20 25,000 7.5 38
min 0.5 55 < 0.05 < 0.11 min 7.2 6900 1.8 6.7
max 200 6800 7.1 530 max 45 70,000 17 140
Japan mean 27 20,000 12 63 USA mean 11 14,000 3.1 87
n = 5 median 34 23,000 6.4 19 n = 10 median 6.7 8900 2.8 20
min 5.4 6700 3.3 < 0.11 min 0.72 1600 0.95 1.3
max 47 36,000 36 180 max 34 44,000 8.2 400
Kuwait mean 11 10,000 2.1 6.9 Vietnam mean 31 11,000 2.1 120
n = 18 median 8.1 8600 1.3 6.9 n = 18 median 17 3900 0.77 22
min 3.6 1400 0.13 0.54 min < 0.18 630 < 0.05 1.6
max 25 31,000 9 13 max 180 42,000 13 1700
J. Zhang, et al. Environment International 134 (2020) 105314
Fig. 3. Correlation between concentrations of polyethylene terephthalate (PET)-based microplastics and terephthalic acid (TPA) (A) and polycarbonate (PC)-based
microplastics and bisphenol A (BPA) (B) in indoor dust samples from 12 countries.
Fig. 4. Comparisons of the median concentrations
of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and poly-
carbonate (PC)-based microplastics in indoor dust
samples measured in this study compared with
those of other chemicals previously measured in
indoor dust collected from Albany, NY, United
States, by our research group (PCDD and PCDFs,
polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzo-
furans, respectively; PBDD and PBDFs, poly-
brominated dibenzop-dioxins and dibenzofurans,
respectively; TBBPA, tetrabromobisphenol A;
PFOA, peruorooctanoic acid; PFOS, per-
uorooctanesulfonate; BADGEs, bisphenol A digly-
cidyl ether; PBDEs, polybrominated diphenyl
ethers; BHT metabolites, metabolites of 2,6-di-tert-
butyl-4-hydroxytoluene; SPAs, synthetic phenolic
Table 2
Median estimated daily intakes (EDI, ng/kg-bw/day) of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycarbonate (PC)-based MPs via house-dust ingestion for dierent
age groups in 12 countries.
infants toddlers children teenagers adults infants toddlers children teenagers adults
China 22,000 12,000 7600 4100 1700 40 21 13 7.5 3.2
Colombia 4000 3800 1700 890 360 25 22 11 5.1 2.1
Greece 42,000 39,000 19,000 9100 3600 89 83 38 19 7.8
India 10,000 5100 3400 1800 770 11 5.8 3.8 2.1 0.88
Japan 140,000 73,000 48,000 27,000 11,000 120 60 40 22 8.9
Kuwait 52,000 27,000 17,000 9700 4100 43 22 14 7.8 3.4
Romania 39,000 36,000 17,000 8400 3400 31 29 13 6.7 2.7
Pakistan 11,000 5900 3900 2200 890 20 11 6.9 3.8 1.6
Saudi Arabia 78,000 42,000 27,000 15,000 6300 270 140 92 51 21
South Korea 150,000 80,000 52,000 28,000 12,000 220 120 78 43 18
USA 38,000 36,000 17,000 8300 3300 87 81 38 19 7.6
Vietnam 23,000 12,000 8100 4400 1900 130 69 45 25 10
J. Zhang, et al. Environment International 134 (2020) 105314
bw/day for adults in all 12 countries, whereas the EDI
of free BPA
ranged from 1.5 to 44 ng/kg-bw/day for infants and 0.13 to 3.6 ng/kg-
bw/day for adults.
4. Discussion
Quantitative information that pertains to the mass concentration of
MPs in indoor dust is scarce. Very high concentrations of PET-based
MPs were found at 37120 000 µg/g in indoor dust, which can be ex-
plained by the use of PET in textile bers (65%) and packaging (30%)
(ECI, 2016). The concentrations of PET-based MPs in indoor dust were
one to three orders of magnitude higher than those of PC-based MP
analyzed by alkali-assisted thermal depolymerization coupled with
HPLC-MS/MS. The annual global production of PET is ve- to ten-fold
higher than that of PC (ECI, 2016, 2017). A positive correlation was
reported between the concentrations of PET-based MPs and the amount
of bers present in indoor dust (Liu et al., 2019). These results suggest
that PET bers are important MPs present in indoor environments.
Economic development and human activity are important factors in
the distribution of PET- and PC-based MPs in indoor dust. Positive
correlations were found between the concentrations of MPs and GDP
per capita of various countries. Plastics consumption in the United
States (an example of a developed country) and India (an example of a
developing country) in 2014 was 95 and 8 kg/capita, respectively
(Plastics Insight, 2015). In addition, concentrations of PET- and PC-
based MPs in the rural area of Pakistan were lower than those in the
urban area. China is the largest producer of PET plastics globally, with
an annual production of 18.9 million metric tons in 2016 (ECI, 2016).
The highest concentration of PET-based MPs was found in a dust sample
from China.
Human exposure to MPs has generated widespread concern in re-
cent years. One study indicated that plastic ingestion via mussel con-
sumption (123 particles/year/capita) was considerably lower than that
of ber exposure from dust fallout in homes (13,73168,415 particles/
year/capita) (Catarino et al., 2018).Sea salt intake was shown to
contribute to MPs ingestion at 036,135 particles/year/capita (Peixoto
et al., 2019). By contrast, higher contribution from dust ingestion to
MPs exposure was estimated in this study, indicating that indoor dust is
a very important pathway of MPs exposure in humans.
TPA is the building block of PET, and more than 93% of TPA was
used in the manufacture of PET (Plastics Insight, 2017). Similarly, more
than 70% of BPA production was utilized in the manufacture of PC
plastics (Groshart. et al., 2001). MPs exposure may be an important
vector for human exposure to monomers, such as TPA and BPA. A
signicant correlation existed between the concentrations of TPA and
PET-based MPs and between BPA and PC-based MPs, indicating that
PET- and PC-based MPs are important sources of TPA and BPA in indoor
dust. Several studies have reported leaching of TPA and BPA from PET
and PC plastic bottles, respectively (Montuori et al., 2008; Le et al.,
2008), as well as the increasing urinary BPA concentrations in humans
with continuous use of PC bottles for over a week (Carwile et al., 2009).
In addition to monomers, several additives, such as phthalates and
TBBPA can leach from MPs (Hahladakis et al., 2018). Thus MPs can be
vectors of exposure to several contaminants in humans.
Although this study describes indoor dust as an important source of
MP exposure in humans for the rst time, there are a few limitations
that deserve attention. Several other important MPs, such as PP, PE, and
PUR should be also quantied in dust in the future. The shape and size
of MPs are also important factors in the exposure risk assessment,
especially of nanosized MPs. In addition, it is dicult to compare the
mass concentrations of MPs reported in this study with the number of
bers or particles reported in previous studies (for dust and other ma-
trices), because of the high heterogeneity of microplastics morphology
reported in dierent studies (Gatidou et al., 2019), and the conversion
between mass concentration from abundance has not been established.
Furthermore, dust samples were sieved through a 150-μm sieve which
would considerably underestimate the actual concentrations of MPs
present in dust. Therefore our exposure estimates are an underestimate
of the actual dose of MPs ingestion in humans. It should be noted that,
the sampling methods might aect the distribution of MPs measured in
dust. Further studies with larger sample size are needed to describe
global distribution and human exposure doses of MPs in indoor dust.
5. Conclusions
PET- and PC-based MPs are ubiquitous in indoor dust from dierent
countries and are found at notable concentrations in some cases. This
indicates that MPs are global indoor pollutants. Dust ingestion is an
important exposure route for MPs in humans. Exposure to PET- and PC-
based MPs via dust ingestion in infants is signicantly higher than those
in adults. The toxicological signicance of micro-and nano-plastics has
been reported in recent years. This study provides information on the
mass concentrations of typical MPs and assesses their intake via dust
ingestion, which are the basis for assessing risks of MPs to human
Declaration of Competing Interest
We thank Drs. A. G. Asimakopoulos (Greece), A. Covaci (Belgium),
B. Gevao (Kuwait), B. Johnson-Restrepo (Colombia), T. A. Kumosani
(Saudi Arabia), G. Malarvannan (Belgium), T. B. Minh (Vietnam), HB.
Moon (South Korea), H. Nakata (Japan), and R. K. Sinha (India) for
providing dust samples. The samples were analyzed at Wadsworth
Center, New York State. This work was supported in part by the
National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41722304),
the 111 Program of the Ministry of Education, China (Grant No.
T2017002), the Chinese Scholarship Council (Grant No. CSC
201806200120), and the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (Award No. U2CES026542-
01). The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not
necessarily represent the ocial views of the National Institutes of
Health. All authors declare no conicting interests.
Appendix A. Supplementary material
Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://
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Microplastic pollution has exhibited a global distribution, including seas, lakes, rivers, and terrestrial environment in recent years. However, little attention was paid on the atmospheric environment, though the fact that plastic debris can escape as wind-blown debris was previously reported. Thus, characteristics of microplastics in the atmospheric fallout from Dongguan city were preliminarily studied. Microplastics of three different polymers, i.e., PE, PP, and PS, were identified. Diverse shapes of microplastics including fiber, foam, fragment, and film were found, and fiber was the dominant shape of the microplastics. SEM images illustrated that adhering particles, grooves, pits, fractures, and flakes were the common patterns of degradation. The concentrations of non-fibrous microplastics and fibers ranged from 175 to 313 particles/m²/day in the atmospheric fallout. Thus, dust emission and deposition between atmosphere, land surface, and aquatic environment were associated with the transportation of microplastics.
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Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
Microplastics are plastic fragments lower than 5 mm that are detected in the environment causing various effects on organisms. Several research articles have recognized Sewage Treatment Plants as important sources of polyethylene and polypropylene beads, polyester, polyamide and other types of microplastics. For their determination, techniques such as visual identification using microscope, Fourier-transform infrared and RAMAN spectroscopy are used, while chemical oxidation, enzymatic maceration and density separation are applied as pretreatment methods for the removal of the inorganic and organic content. Microplastics’ concentrations range up to 3160 particles L-1, 125 particles L-1 and 170.9 x 103 particles Kg-1 TS dw in raw, treated wastewater and sludge, respectively. Their removal during wastewater treatment ranges between 72% and 99.4%; the main processes that contribute to their removal are primary and secondary treatment, while the effect of tertiary treatment depends on the applied technology. Entrapment in suspended solids and accumulation to sludge are the major mechanisms governing their fate. A standardized protocol for samples’ collection and pretreatment as well as microplastics’ isolation and characterization is needed; future reseach should investigate the possible chemical and physical changes of microplastics during treatment, and their role as carriers for the transfer of emerging micropollutants.
Microplastics are an emerging concern in the marine environment due to their small size; they can be ingested by aquatic organisms, especially filter-feeding organisms, such as oysters. The presence of microplastics in seafood may pose a threat to food safety, and there is an urgent need to evaluate the potential risks of microplastics to human health. This study quantified the microplastics in oysters from 17 sites along the coastline of China. Qualitative attributes, such as shape and size, were also determined under a microscope. Additionally, the polymer types were identified using Fourier-Transform Infrared Micro-Spectroscopy (μ-FT-IR). The results showed that the average abundance of microplastics in oyster was 0.62 items/g (wet weight) or 2.93 items/individual. Additionally, 84% of the sampled oysters had inhaled microplastics, indicating the high prevalence of microplastic pollution in different coastal areas of China. Fibers were the most common shape (60.67%), and the most common size was <1500 μm, accounting for 81.89% of the total microplastics. The μ-FT-IR analysis identified eight different polymers, and the main polymeric types of microplastics were cellophane (CP), polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Our results suggest the widespread prevalence of microplastics in cultured oysters from different coastal areas of China with similar or lower abundances than other countries. In addition, our results exhibited regional characteristics of high microplastics abundance in southern coastal area of China and low microplastics abundance in northern China. Further investigations are warranted to examine microplastics contamination in other seafood species from different geographical sites in coastal area of China.
Melamine and its derivatives (i.e., ammeline, ammelide, and cyanuric acid) are extensively used in household products, such as furniture, dinnerware, and food utensils. Nevertheless, no information is available on human exposures, other than dietary sources, to melamine and its derivatives. In this study, the occurrence of melamine and its derivatives was determined, for the first time, in 341 samples of indoor dust, collected from 12 countries. All of the dust samples contained target analytes, with global median concentrations of 1800, 1100, 48, and 45 ng/g for melamine, cyanuric acid, ammelide, and ammeline, respectively. The total concentrations of melamine and its derivates varied among countries, in the following decreasing order: United States (median: 17000 ng/g) > Japan (8400) > China (8000) > South Korea (7300) > Saudi Arabia (4400) > Romania (4300) > Greece (3400) > Kuwait (2400) > Vietnam (2300) > Colombia (1300) > Pakistan (820) > India (430). Correlation analysis indicated the existence of multiple and varied sources for melamine and cyanuric acid. Estimated daily intakes of melamine via indoor dust ingestion were at least two orders of magnitude below the current tolerable daily intake.
Owing to their toxicity, phthalate plasticizers are currently being replaced with terephthalates in many consumer products. Nevertheless, data on human exposure to and toxicity of terephthalates are still scarce. In this study, we developed a robust analytical method for the measurement of six terephthalate metabolites (TPhMs) in human urine through their successful separation from phthalate metabolites (PhMs). Target analytes were identified, using commercially available standards, and quantified with isotopically labeled internal standards (IS). The limits of quantification (LOQ) of TPhMs were in the range of 0.12 to 0.4 ng/mL, with the exception of 2.8 ng/mL for terephthalic acid (TPA) and 3.75 ng/mL for mono-(2-ethylhexyl) terephthalate (mEHTP), which were found in procedural blanks at notable levels. The method developed in this study showed excellent accuracy (recoveries: 86–117%) and precision (RSD: 0.6–12.2%) for TPhMs. The method was successfully applied for the analysis of 30 human urine samples collected from individuals with no known history of occupational exposure. The detection frequencies (df %) of TPhMs in urine ranged between 26.6 and 100%. This is one of the first studies that report a method for the analysis of emerging class of environmental chemicals in human specimens.
Microplastics (MPs) are the most numerous debris reported in marine environments and assessment of the amounts of MPs that accumulate in wild organisms is necessary for risk assessment. Our objective was to assess MP contamination in mussels collected around the coast of Scotland (UK) to identify characteristics of MPs and to evaluate risk of human exposure to MPs via ingestion of mussels. We deployed caged mussels (Mytilus edulis) in an urbanised estuary (Edinburgh, UK) to assess seasonal changes in plastic pollution, and collected mussels (Mytilus spp and subtidal Modiolus modiolus) from eight sampling stations around Scotland to enumerate MP types at different locations. We determined the potential exposure of humans to household dust fibres during a meal to compare with amounts of MPs present in edible mussels. The mean number of MPs in M. modiolus was 0.086 ± 0.031 (SE, n = 6)/g ww (3.5 ± 1.29 (SE) per mussel). In Mytilus spp, the mean number of MPs/g ww was 3.0 ± 0.9 (SE, n = 36) (3.2 ± 0.52 (SE) per mussel), but weight dependent. The visual accuracy of plastic fibres identification was estimated to be between 48 and 50%, using Nile Red staining and FT-IR methodologies, respectively, halving the observed amounts of MPs in wild mussels. We observed an allometric relationship between the number of MPs and the mussels wet weight. Our predictions of MPs ingestion by humans via consumption of mussels is 123 MP particles/y/capita in the UK and can go up to 4620 particles/y/capita in countries with a higher shellfish consumption. By comparison, the risk of plastic ingestion via mussel consumption is minimal when compared to fibre exposure during a meal via dust fallout in a household (13,731-68,415 particles/Y/capita).