Author: Dreillard, M., C.DeFaria Barros, V. Rouchon, C. Emonnot, V. Lefebvre, M. Moreaud, D. Guillaume, F. Rimbault, F. Pagerey
Source: Sci. Total Environ. 2022 831: 154674
Abstract Microplastics are a subject of growing interest as they are a potential threat for living organisms. Textile microfibers (MFs) are an important microplastics sub-group that have been reported as a major source of microplastics release into the environment. This pollution occurs mainly during the washing of synthetic garments. However, standardized methods to quantify and characterize these MFs are scarce. This study proposes a new analytical protocol to characterize these MFs in number and size by means of filtration techniques, optical and electronic microscopy and automatic image post-processing. This approach was developed and validated on effluents from washing machines produced in different conditions (5 different garments, sequential cycles, and presence or not of detergent). Among the analyzed effluents, it was found that 40 to 75% of microfibers have a length comprised between 50 and 200 μm, with average microfiber diameters ranging from 8 to 17 μm depending on the type of textile. The emission range of microfibers was estimated to be between 220,000 to 2,820,000 microfibers per kg of textile depending on the type of garment and the washing conditions. The counting method developed is adapted to a certain range of textiles, such as 100% polyester fleece jackets (PET-1), 100% smooth polyester T-shirt (PET-2) and 100% acrylic sweater (PAN), and is not affected by the presence of detergent. The proposed method of characterization of these MFs lengths can also be extrapolated to the counting of other objects that have a similar morphology to the analyzed fibers. Hence, it can be helpful to develop new testing capture technologies and, thus, contribute to the enhancement of filtering techniques of several pollutants.