Section VI: Microplastics in Freshwater


: Microplastics in Freshwater

Mohammad Rashid, Shariq Shamsi and Khwaja Salahuddin Siddiqi


  • 11.1 Plastics and Microplastics: A Historical Overview 184
  • 11.2 Plastics 184
  • 11.3 Microplastics: The Evolution of Plastic Pollution 185
  • 11.4 Sources of Plastics and Microplastics into the Freshwater Environment 185
  • 11.5 Occurrence in Freshwater Systems 187
  • 11.6 Fate and Transport in Freshwater Systems 187
  • 11.6.1 Transport of MPs 188
  • 11.6.2 Environmental Persistence and Degradation 188
  • 11.6.3 Interaction with Other Compounds 190
  • Factors Influencing Adsorption Process 190
  • 11.7 Effects of Plastics and Microplastics on Freshwater Ecosystems 191
  • 11.7.1 Ingestion of MPs and Its Biological Impact 191
  • 11.7.2 Chemical Effects 193
  • 11.7.3 Biofilm-Related Impact 194
  • Effect of Biofilm 194
  • 11.8 Biological Effects of Sub-Micrometer Plastics 194
  • 11.9 Freshwater Microplastics: Challenges for Regulation and Management 195
  • 11.10 Conclusion 196

References 196

The natural environment is persistently being exposed to contaminants of emerging concern which does not limit itself to well-known pollutants but also that of microscopic origin [1].

Plastic has for some time been known to be a major component of riverine pollution [2-6], and its degradation products have been noted as a potential issue for soil environments [7]. Indiscriminate disposal places a huge burden on waste management systems, allowing plastic wastes to infiltrate ecosystems, with the potential to contaminate the food chain. Of particular concern is the reported presence of microscopic plastic debris or microplastics (debris <1 mm in size) in aquatic, terrestrial and marine habitats [8].The accumulation of small plastic items (<5 mm) in aquatic environments was first reported in marine settings in the 1970s. In 2004, Thompson et al. reported the accumulation of microscopic pieces of plastic and fiber around the United Kingdom. Using archived plankton samples, they showed increases in the abundance of these microscopic particles from the 1960s to the 1990s [9].

By 2050, however, it is anticipated that an extra 33 billion tonnes of plastic will be added to the planet [10]. At present, the increased awareness of the growing production and accumulation of plastic pollution in the environment has brought greater focus to the need for development of policies and management strategies [1].

There is concern that long-term exposure may lead to bioaccumulation of submicron particles with wider implications for environmental health [11-13].

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