A Novel Strategy to Directly Quantify Polyethylene Microplastics in PM2.5Based on Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry

Peiru Luo, Mengke Bai, Qingyun He, Zifang Peng, Lingyun Wang, Chuan Dong, Zenghua Qi, Wenfen Zhang*, Yanhao Zhang*, Zongwei Cai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The broad application of plastic products has resulted in a considerable release of microplastics (MPs) into the ecosystem. While MPs in other environmental matrices (e.g., soil and water) have been studied for a long time, the atmospheric fine particulate matter (PM2.5)-bound MPs are rarely investigated due to the lack of an appropriate analytical approach. The prevalently used visual and spectroscopic means (e.g., optical microscopy, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy) suffer from obvious drawbacks that cannot precisely detect MPs of tiny sizes and provide quantitative information. In the present study, a novel strategy that does not require sample pretreatment was developed to first effectuate accurate quantification of polyethylene MP (PE-MP) in PM2.5 based on pyrolysis-gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (Pyr-GC-MS/MS). It featured acceptable recoveries (97%-110%), high sensitivity (LOD = 1 pg), and qualified precisions (RSD of 3%-13%). Employing this approach, for the first time, exact atmospheric concentrations of PE-MPs in PM2.5 from megacities in North (Zhengzhou and Taiyuan) and South (Guangzhou) China were obtained, and relatively serious pollution was found in Taiyuan. The 100% sample detection rates also suggested the widespread occurrence and possible human exposure risks of PM2.5-bound PE-MPs. In brief, the new strategy could conduct direct, sensitive, and accurate quantification of PE-MP in PM2.5, favoring further studies of environmental fates, distributions, and toxicities of atmospheric MPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3556–3562
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Volume95
Issue number7
Early online date9 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Analytical Chemistry

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