Environmental pollution associated to plastic debris is gaining increasing relevance not only as a threat to ecosystems but also for its possible harmful effects on biota and human health. The release of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is a potential hazard associated with the environmental weathering of plastic debris. Artificial aging of reference polymers (polystyrene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, high and low density polyethylene) was performed in a Solar Box at 40 °C and 750 W/m2. The volatile degradation products were determined before and after 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks of aging using a validated analytical procedure combining headspace (HS) with needle trap microextraction (NTME) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC–MS). A progressive increase in VOCs was observed during artificial photo-degradation, whose chemical profile resulted polymer-dependent and included carbonyls, lactones, esters, acids, alcohols, ethers, aromatics. The amount of extractable fraction in polar solvents generally showed a similar trend. The same analytical procedure was used to determine VOCs released from plastic debris collected at a marine beach. All samples released harmful compounds (e.g. acrolein, benzene, propanal, methyl vinyl ketone, and methyl propenyl ketone), supporting the initial hypothesis that microplastics represent an unrecognized source of environmental pollution.

Release of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from photo-degraded plastic debris: A neglected source of environmental pollution

Lomonaco, Tommaso
;
Corti, Andrea;La Nasa, Jacopo;Ghimenti, Silvia;Biagini, Denise;Di Francesco, Fabio;Modugno, Francesca;Ceccarini, Alessio;Castelvetro, Valter
2020-01-01

Abstract

Environmental pollution associated to plastic debris is gaining increasing relevance not only as a threat to ecosystems but also for its possible harmful effects on biota and human health. The release of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is a potential hazard associated with the environmental weathering of plastic debris. Artificial aging of reference polymers (polystyrene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, high and low density polyethylene) was performed in a Solar Box at 40 °C and 750 W/m2. The volatile degradation products were determined before and after 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks of aging using a validated analytical procedure combining headspace (HS) with needle trap microextraction (NTME) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC–MS). A progressive increase in VOCs was observed during artificial photo-degradation, whose chemical profile resulted polymer-dependent and included carbonyls, lactones, esters, acids, alcohols, ethers, aromatics. The amount of extractable fraction in polar solvents generally showed a similar trend. The same analytical procedure was used to determine VOCs released from plastic debris collected at a marine beach. All samples released harmful compounds (e.g. acrolein, benzene, propanal, methyl vinyl ketone, and methyl propenyl ketone), supporting the initial hypothesis that microplastics represent an unrecognized source of environmental pollution.
2020
Lomonaco, Tommaso; Manco, Enrico; Corti, Andrea; La Nasa, Jacopo; Ghimenti, Silvia; Biagini, Denise; Di Francesco, Fabio; Modugno, Francesca; Ceccarini, Alessio; Fuoco, Roger; Castelvetro, Valter
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/1039383
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