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Sampling, Identification and Characterization of Microplastics Release from Polypropylene Baby Feeding Bottle during Daily Use

Published: July 24th, 2021



1AMBER Research Centre and Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN), Trinity College Dublin, 2Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin, 3TrinityHaus, Trinity College Dublin, 4School of Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin, 5BEACON, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre, University College Dublin
* These authors contributed equally

This study detailed a reliable and cost-effective protocol for microplastics collection and detection from the daily use of plastic products.

Microplastics (MPs) are becoming a global concern due to the potential risk to human health. Case studies of plastic products (i.e., plastic single-use cups and kettles) indicate that MP release during daily use can be extremely high. Precisely determining the MP release level is a crucial step to identify and quantify the exposure source and assess/control the corresponding risks stemming from this exposure. Though protocols for measuring MP levels in marine or freshwater has been well developed, the conditions experienced by household plastic products can vary widely. Many plastic products are exposed to frequent high temperatures (up to 100 °C) and are cooled back to room temperature during daily use. It is therefore crucial to develop a sampling protocol that mimics the actual daily-use scenario for each particular product. This study focused on widely used polypropylene-based baby feeding bottles to develop a cost-effective protocol for MP release studies of many plastic products. The protocol developed here enables: 1) prevention of the potential contamination during sampling and detection; 2) realistic implementation of daily-use scenarios and accurate collection of the MPs released from baby feeding bottles based on WHO guidelines; and 3) cost-effective chemical determination and physical topography mapping of MPs released from baby feeding bottles. Based on this protocol, the recovery percentage using standard polystyrene MP (diameter of 2 µm) was 92.4-101.2% while the detected size was around 102.2% of the designed size. The protocol detailed here provides a reliable and cost-effective method for MP sample preparation and detection, which can substantially benefit future studies of MP release from plastic products.

Most types of plastics are non-biodegradable but can break down into small pieces due to chemical and physical processes such as oxidation and mechanical friction1,2. Plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm are classified as microplastics (MPs). MPs are ubiquitous and found in almost every corner in the world. They have become a global concern due to the potential risk to humans and wildlife3,4. To date, significant accumulations of MPs have been found in fish, birds, insects5,6 as well as mammals (mo....

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1. Hot water preparation

  1. For all hardware that comes into contact with the samples, use clean glass made of borosilicate 3.3 to prevent any potential contamination. Thoroughly clean all the glassware.
    Caution: Pre-existing scratches or imperfection spots on glassware can release particles during the heating and shaking process. We suggest that users check the glassware and avoid the use of the scratched glassware. Our comparison of glassware made of different glasses (such as soda-lime.......

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To validate this protocol, the water sample was prepared by adding standard polystyrene microplastic spheres (a diameter of 2.0 ± 0.1 µm) to DI water. The MP quantity added corresponded to 4,500,000 particles/L, which is similar to the MP release level from BFBs. Following protocol sections 2-3, the MPs were successfully collected (Figure 4A) and the recovery rate was 92.4-101.2%. This recovery rate is comparable to a previous study on MPs23. Using ImageJ, t.......

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Though the study of MPs in marine and freshwater has been widely reported and the relevant standard protocol has been developed17, the study of daily-use plastic products is an important emerging research area. The different environmental conditions experienced by household plastic products means that extra care and efforts are needed to obtain reliable results. The study protocol must be consistent with the real daily use scenarios. For example, sonication is widely used in lab-tests to clean sam.......

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The authors appreciate the Enterprise Ireland (grant number CF20180870) and Science Foundation Ireland (grants numbers: 20/FIP/PL/8733, 12/RC/2278_P2 and 16/IA/4462) for financial support. We also acknowledge financial support from the School of Engineering Scholarship at Trinity College Dublin and China Scholarship Council (201506210089 and 201608300005). In addition, we appreciate the professional help from Prof. Sarah Mc Cormack and technician teams (David A. McAulay, Mary O'Shea, Patrick L.K. Veale, Robert Fitzpatrick and Mark Gilligan etc.) of Trinity Civil, Structural and Environmental Department and AMBER Research Centre.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
AFM cantilever NANOSENSORS PPP-NCSTAuD-10 To obtain three-dimensional topography of PP MPs
Atomic force microscope Nova NT-MDT To obtain three-dimensional topography of PP MPs
Detergent Fairy Original 1015054 To clean the brand-new product
Gold-coated polycarbonate-PC membrane filter-0.8 um APC, Germany 0.8um25mmGold To collect microplastics in water and benefit for Raman test
Gwyddion software Gwyddion Gwyddion2.54 To determine MPs topography
ImageJ software US National Institutes of Health No, free for use To determine MPs size
Microwave oven De'longhi, Italy 815/1195 Hot water preparation
Optical microscope, x100 Mitutoyo, Japan 46-147 To find and observe the small MPs
Raman spectroscopy Renishaw InVia confocal Raman system To checmically determine the PP-MPs
Shaking bed-SSL2 Stuart, UK 51900-64 To mimic the mixing process during sample preparaton
Standard polystyrene microplastic spheres Polysciences, Europe 64050-15 To validate the robusty of current protocol
Tansfer pipette with glass tip Macro, Brand 26200 To transfer water sample to glass filter
Ultrasonic cleaner Witeg, Germany DH.WUC.D06H To clean the glassware
Vacuum pump ILMVAC GmbH 105697 To filter the water sample

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