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Microfibers (mf) are the most common type of microplastic in the environment. Few studies have focused on their abundance in atmospheric deposition in background environments. In the current study, we collected wet-only and bulk rainfall from four precipitation chemistry monitoring stations, primarily located in coastal areas around Ireland. Anthropogenic mf were observed in all samples; the average deposition across the four study sites was 80 mf m-2 day-1. Wet-only mf deposition was 70 mf m-2 day-1 compared with bulk deposition of 100 mf m-2 day-1. The wet-only collectors were estimated to capture ∼70% of the bulk collectors, suggesting that dry deposition makes up at least 30% of total deposition. Meteorological variables, i.e., relative humidity, rainfall volume, wind speed, and wind direction, were significantly related to mf abundance, suggesting that rainfall washout and air mass movement are important predictors of mf deposition in background regions. In total, 15% of all anthropogenic mf were identified as plastic. The most abundant polymer type was polyester or polyethylene terephthalate at 71%, followed by polyacrylonitrile at 11%, polyethylene at 11%, and polypropylene at 4%. The average deposition of plastic mf was 12 mf m-2 day-1.


Brett Roblin, Margaret Ryan, Andrew Vreugdenhil, Julian Aherne. Ambient Atmospheric Deposition of Anthropogenic Microfibers and Microplastics on the Western Periphery of Europe (Ireland). Environmental science & technology. 2020 Sep 15;54(18):11100-11108

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PMID: 32790996

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