Microplastics

Microplastics

Characterization of indoor and outdoor exposures to airborne microplastic particles

This project aims to address data gaps in quantitative understanding of exposure to inhalable or respirable microplastics in indoor and outdoor air and settled dust.

Organized by American Chemistry Council

Collaborators

  • Alison Elder
    Environmental Medicine
    University of Rochester
    (Rochester, New York, US)
  • James McGrath
    Biomedical Engineering
    University of Rochester/SiMPore
  • Samantha Romanick
    Biomedical Engineering
    University of Rochester
    (Rochester, New York, US)
  • Wayne Knox
    Institute of Optics
    University of Rochester
    (Rochester, New York, US)
  • Andrew Berger
    Institute of Optics
    University of Rochester
    (Rochester, New York, US)
  • Gregory Madejski
    Integrated Nanosystems Center
    University of Rochester/Parverio, Inc.
    (Rochester, New York, US)
  • Iseult Lynch
    University of Birmingham (UK)
  • Sophie Comer-Warner
    University of Birmingham (UK)/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Illinois, US)
  • John Scott
    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Illinois, US)

Timeline

Analyses via Pyro-GC-MS to commence in spring 2024, with results being prepared fo publication by the end of 2024

Additional information

Studies of indoor and outdoor air and settled dust have found plastic particles with varying compositions (polypropylene, polyethylene, polyester, polyvinyl chloride, nylon), morphologies (fibers, fragments, spheres), and sizes, including submicrometer particles up to several mm long. At least for larger size fractions, plastic particles can be distinguished from other airborne particulates. This project aims to address data gaps including defining the concentration, morphology, and composition of particles that can be deposited in the respiratory tract.

For the airborne microplastic studies, researchers are using respirable cyclone-type (4 μm) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5 impactor-type, ≤2.5 μm) sampling devices. Several samples have been collected on ultrathin, optically clear silicon nanomembranes that allow imaging without extraction. For initial experiments, particles were stained to identify cellulosic and polymeric particles. The samples collected on the membranes are being analyzed via light microscopy or confocal Raman spectroscopy. However, the methods described above have limitations in terms of minimum particle sizes and the speciation analyses are somewhat inefficient. On this latter point, most health-based standards relating to particulate matter are expressed by mass concentration. Thus, the researchers are currently preparing for bulk analyses of respirable samples via pyrolysis gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

Results will ultimately be extrapolated to estimate lung burdens over various exposure time scales to compare to other types of environmental and occupational exposures. These quantitative analyses are complemented by imaging analyses to provide information about morphology and physical dimensions, as well as exploratory work to identify microplastics in environmental samples.

Professional Presentations

Elder et al. Analysis of Airborne Microplastics in Indoor Environments: Toxicological Considerations (virtual talk). Society for Risk Analysis annual conference, December 2021.

Romanick et al. National Postdoc Appreciation Week Showcase, 2021 (University of Rochester): Assessment of Respirable and Inhalable Indoor Microplastic Pollution (poster).

Elder et al. Are Airborne Microplastics a New Concern for Human Health? (talk). Society of Toxicology-Japanese Society of Toxicology Joint Symposium, SOT annual conference, San Diego, CA, March 2022.

Romanick et al. Assessment of Respirable and Inhalable Household Microplastic Pollution and the Effects of Exposure on the Human Epithelial Barrier. 2022 Society of Toxicology poster presentation (San Diego, CA).

Elder et al. Evaluating Indoor Exposures to Human Respirable Microplastic Particles (talk). Inhaled Particles Toxicology Conference, Santa Fe, NM, August 2022.

Elder et al. Evaluating Indoor Exposures to Human Respirable Microplastic Particles (virtual talk). Microplastics Advance Research and Innovation Initiative (MARII) Workshop on advancements and steps towards a holistic, quantitative risk assessment on microplastics, October 2022.

Elder et al. Evaluating Airborne Exposures to Microplastic Particles (talk). Microplastics: Factors to Consider when Assessing Potential Environmental and Human Health Risks Symposium, SOT annual conference, Nashville, TN, March 2023.

Romanick et al. Colorimetric Assessment of Household Settled Dust Captured on Silicon Nanomembranes. 2023 Society of Toxicology poster presentation (Nashville, TN).

Romanick et al. Colorimetric Assessment of Household Settled Dust Captured on Silicon Nanomembranes (talk). Inhaled Particles XIII-NanOEH Conference, May 2023 (Manchester, UK).

Elder et al. Evaluating Airborne Exposures to Microplastic Particles (talk). Inhaled Particles XIII-NanOEH Conference, May 2023 (Manchester, UK).

Published Papers

Publications in Preparation:

Romanick SS, Madejski G, Cashion G, Berger AJ, Elder A, McGrath J. Assessment of Household
Settled Dust via Silicon Nanomembrane Analyses Pipeline (SNAP); Submitted.

The researchers are also preparing an overview paper and a protocol paper about the characterization of microplastics in household dust.

Alison Elder and Phoebe Stapleton (Rutgers University) are collaboration to prepare a chapter for Comprehensive Toxicology, 4th edition entitled, Nanoparticles and nanoplastics in the Lung; due for submission by June 2024