Microplastics pollution is an important environmental concern. These tiny plastic particles can affect ecosystems as well as human health. To count microplastic particles in air—both indoors and outdoors—researchers can use active, high-volume samplers that pump air through filters. However, in regions with limited or unreliable energy supply, such as in mountainous regions, active samplers can be challenging to install and operate. Passive air sampling devices can be useful alternatives, but usually have smaller sampling rates.
Xiaoping Wang, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, and University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, all Beijing, Li Xu, Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences and Beijing Municipal Key Laboratory of Agriculture Environment Monitoring, China, and colleagues have used a tube-shaped passive air sampler that turns into oncoming wind, which improves the sampling rate, and outfitted it with a filter that can collect microplastic particles. The direction and speed of the wind were measured by a device attached to the sampler.
The team installed two passive samplers with different sampling tube diameters and filter surface areas on a roof in a suburb of Lhasa city in the Tibetan region. A conventional high-volume air sampler was also installed to serve as a reference. The researchers used both glass fiber filters and polycarbonate filters.
After sampling, the filters were collected and the collected particles were counted. The team compared the results with those of the high-volume air sampler. They found that the larger of the two passive samplers, with a tube diameter of 20 cm, has performance characteristics that match those of the active air sampler. This type of device could, thus, be useful for the atmospheric monitoring of microplastic particles, e.g., in remote regions.
- A Flow-through Passive Sampler for Microplastics in Air,
Huike Dong, Xiaoping Wang, Li Xu, Jiannan Ding, Frank Wania,
Environ. Sci. Technol. 2023.