Microplastics in Water: Occurrence, Removal, Fate and Transport in Water Treatment

May 22, 2020

There is increasing public concern over the amount of plastic pollution in the environment and its effect on human health and ecosystems. Widespread reports of trillions of microplastics (MPs) discharging into freshwaters, being a vector of contaminant bioaccumulation, and their toxicity quickly led to widespread banning of microbeads (one component of MPs). MPs are often reported in the same context as micro-plastics whose risks to large mammals, sea turtles, birds, and fish are well known. The majority of research identifying adverse effects of MPs have only used microbeads, with exposures several orders of magnitude higher than the worst sites in nature. Measurement methods for MPs vary significantly, and there is no universal protocol for sample preparation, which can make results hard to compare. More research is also needed on the removal of MPs and microfibers by various water treatment processes, particularly for sizes smaller than 300 microns (0.3 millimeters). 

In the next 5 years, the goal of the Microplastics in Water research area is to implement a strategic research plan in concert with interested federal/national agencies to address a few critical knowledge gaps.


Project List

Determining the Fate and Major Removal Mechanisms of Microplastics in Water and Resource Recovery Facilities

  • Project Number: 4936 / WRF 18-02
  • Year Completed: Ongoing

Method Harmonization and Round Robin Comparison for Micro-Nanoplastics (w different European Labs)

  • Year Completed: 2019

Microplastics in Aquatic Systems: An Assessment of Risk

  • Project Number: 1354 / CEC7R17
  • Year Completed: 2017

Microplastics in Fresh Water Resources in Collaboration with GWRC

  • Year Completed: 2015

Advisory Committee Members

To be determined.