Microplastics in water systems: A review of their impacts on the environment and their potential hazards

Elsevier, Heliyon, Volume 9, Issue 3, March 2023, e14359
Homin Kye, Jiyoon Kim, Seonghyeon Ju, Junho Lee, Chaehwi Lim, Yeojoon Yoon

Microplastics, the microscopic plastics, are fragments of any type of plastic that are being produced today as plastic waste originating from anthropogenic activities. Such microplastics are discharged into the environment, and they enter back into the human body through different means. The microplastics spread in the environment due to environmental factors and the inherent properties of microplastics, such as density, hydrophobicity, and recalcitrance, and then eventually enter the water environment. In this study, to better understand the behavior of microplastics in the water environment, an extensive literature review was conducted on the occurrence of microplastics in aquatic environments categorized by seawater, wastewater, and freshwater. We summarized the abundance and distribution of microplastics in the water environment and studied the environmental factors affecting them in detail. In addition, focusing on the sampling and pretreatment processes that can limit the analysis results of microplastics, we discussed in depth the sampling methods, density separation, and organic matter digestion methods for each water environment. Finally, the potential hazards posed by the behavior of aging microplastics, such as adsorption of pollutants or ingestion by aquatic organisms, due to exposure to the environment were also investigated.