A novel method for preparing microplastic fibers
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Microscopic plastic (microplastic, 0.1 µm-5 mm) is a widespread pollutant impacting upon aquatic ecosystems across the globe. Environmental sampling has revealed synthetic fibers are prevalent in seawater, sediments and biota. However, microplastic fibers are rarely used in laboratory studies as they are unavailable for purchase and existing preparation techniques have limited application. To facilitate the incorporation of environmentally relevant microplastic fibers into future studies, new methods are required. Here, a novel cryotome protocol has been developed. Nylon, polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene fibers (10-28 μm diameter) were aligned, embedded in water-soluble freezing agent, and sectioned (40-100 μm length) using a cryogenic microtome. Microplastic fibers were prepared to specified lengths (P < 0.05, ANOVA) and proved consistent in size. Fluorescent labelling of Nylon microfibers with Nile Red facilitated imaging. A 24 h feeding experiment confirmed bioavailability of 10 × 40 μm Nylon fibers to brine shrimp (Artemia sp). This protocol provides a consistent method for preparing standardised fibrous microplastics, with widths similar to those observed in the natural environment, which could ultimately lead to a better understanding of the biological and ecological effects of microplastic debris in the environment.
Funding was provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (grant NE/L007010). Thanks to the Aquatic Resources Centre (ARC) team for experimental support, Dr Christian Hacker for SEM, and Tamara Galloway and Penelope Lindeque for their valued feedback.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Springer Nature via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 6, article 34519
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