Competitive sorption of persistent organic pollutants onto microplastics in the marine environment

Adil Bakir, Steven J. Rowland, Richard C. Thompson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Plastics are known to sorb persistent organic pollutants from seawater. However, studies to quantify sorption rates have only considered the affinity of chemicals in isolation, unlike the conditions in the environment where contaminants are present as complex mixtures. Here we examine whether phenanthrene and 4,4′-DDT, in a mixture, compete for sorption sites onto PVC with no added additives (unplasticised PVC or uPVC) and Ultra-High Molecular Weight polyethylene. Interactions were investigated by exposing particles of uPVC and UHMW PE to mixtures of 3H and 14C radiolabelled Phe and DDT. Changes in sorption capacity were modelled by applying a Freundlich binding sorption isotherms. An Extended Langmuir Model and an Interaction Factor Model were also applied to predict equilibrium concentrations of pollutants onto plastic. This study showed that in a bi-solute system, DDT exhibited no significantly different sorption behaviour than in single solute systems. However, DDT did appear to interfere with the sorption of Phe onto plastic, indicating an antagonistic effect.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2782-2789
    Number of pages7
    JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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