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Airborne microplastics in indoor and outdoor environments of a coastal city in Eastern China.

  • Author(s): Liao, Zhonglu
  • Ji, Xiaoliang
  • Ma, Yuan
  • Lv, Baoqiang
  • Huang, Wei
  • Zhu, Xuan
  • Fang, Mingzhu
  • Wang, Qi
  • Wang, Xuedong
  • Dahlgren, Randy
  • Shang, Xu
  • et al.

Microplastics (MPs) in marine and terrestrial environments have been intensively studied, but the dynamics of airborne MPs remains limited. Existing studies on atmospheric MPs are mostly derived from collection of atmospheric deposition, whereas direct measurements of airborne MPs are scarce. However, the abundance of airborne MPs is more relevant for evaluating human inhalation exposure risk. Herein, airborne MPs in indoor and outdoor environments from urban and rural areas of a coastal city in eastern China were investigated. MP concentrations (mean±SD) in indoor air (1583 ± 1180 n/m3) were an order of magnitude higher than outdoor air (189 ± 85 n/m3), and airborne MP concentrations in urban areas (224 ± 70 n/m3) were higher than rural areas (101 ± 47 n/m3). MPs smaller than 100 µm dominated airborne MPs, and the predominant shape of airborne MPs was fragments, as opposed to fibers. The larger MP size fractions contained a higher proportion of fibers, whereas the smaller size fractions were nearly exclusively composed of fragments. The health risk caused by ubiquitous airborne MPs should not be discounted as the maximum annual outdoor exposure of airborne MPs can reach 1 million/year, while indoor exposure may be even higher due to higher indoor airborne MP concentrations.

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