Microplastics in the atmosphere of Ahvaz City, Iran
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Airborne particulate matter (PM) with an aerodynamic size cutoff of 10 µm (PM10) has been collected using a high volume air sampler at two locations (urban and residential) in the city of Ahvaz, Iran, for sixteen 24-hour periods over four months (late summer to early winter). Microplastics (MPs) in the PM were isolated after sample digestion and were subsequently characterised by established techniques. All MPs sampled (n = 322) were of a fibrous nature, with polyethylene terephthalate, nylon and polypropylene being the dominant polymers and consistent with textiles and fabrics as the principal source. Despite a distinct seasonality (temperature and wind) over the study period, the abundance, size and colour of the fibres exhibited no clear temporal trend, and no clear differences were observed between the two sites. Concentrations of MPs ranged from none detected to about 0.017/m3 (median = 0.0065/m3) and are at the low end of ranges reported in the recent literature for various urban and remote locations. While some MPs may have a local origin, the weathering of other MPs and their acquisition of extraneous geosolids and salts suggests that long-range transport is also important. Back-trajectory calculations indicate that regional sources are mainly to the north and west of Ahvaz, but a southerly, maritime source is also possible in late autumn. Although concentrations of MPs in the atmosphere are well below those encountered in indoor air, further studies are required to elucidate their potential ecological impacts.
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