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Fluorescence Signatures of Dissolved Organic Matter Leached from Microplastics: Polymers and Additives

Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 19, 11905–11914
Publication Date (Web):August 27, 2020
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society

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    Despite the numerous studies that have investigated the occurrence and fate of plastic particles in the environment, only a limited effort has been devoted toward exploring the characteristics of dissolved organic matter (DOM) leached from microplastics. In this study, using excitation emission matrix-parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC), we explored the fluorescence signatures of plastic-derived DOM from commonly used plastic materials, which included two polymers (polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene (PS)), two additives (diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and bisphenol A (BPA)), and two commercial plastics. The exposure of the selected plastics to UV light facilitated the leaching of DOM measured in terms of dissolved organic carbon and fluorescence intensity. Four fluorescent components were identified, which included three protein/phenol-like components (C1, C3, and C4) and one humic-like component (C2). The C1 and C4 components were highly correlated with the amounts of DOM leached from DEHP and BPA, respectively, under both leaching conditions, while both C2 and C4 presented good correlations with the DOM leached from polymers under UV light. The C4 may serve as a good fluorescence proxy for DOM leached from BPA or BPA-containing plastics. This study highlights the overlooked issue of plastic-derived DOM leaching into the aquatic environment through optical characterization.

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    • Fluorescence EEM plots of the artificial freshwater solutions with and without plastics/additives; comparison of the EEM peak intensities of different plastic materials and additives under two different leaching conditions; excitation and emission maxima of the fluorescent components of plastic-derived DOM, their assignments, and how these assignments compare with previous studies; variations of four fluorescent components (C1 to C4) with increasing amounts of plastic materials under the dark and UV light conditions; and comparison of the DOC-normalized Fmax values in C4 for the PVC-derived DOM and the PS-derived DOM produced under the UV light condition, and for the BPA-derived DOM produced under the dark and UV light conditions after 7 days of leaching (PDF)

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