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Colour and size influences plastic microbead underestimation, regardless of sediment grain size
- Nel, Holly A., Dalu, Tatenda, Wasserman, Ryan J., Hean, Jeffrey W.
- The Science of the total environment 2019 v.655 pp. 567-570
- color, microbeads, microplastics, probability, sediments
- The quantification of microplastics in environmental samples often requires an observer to determine whether a particle is plastic or non-plastic, prior to further verification procedures. This implies that inconspicuous microplastics with a low natural detection may be underestimated. The present study aimed at assessing this underestimation, looking at how colour (white, green and blue), size (large; ~1000 μm and small; <400 μm) and grain size fraction may affect detection. Sediment treatments varying in grain size were inoculated with known quantities of low-density polyethylene microbeads extracted from commercially bought facial scrubs. These microbeads varied in colour and size. Once extracted using a density separation method microbeads were counted. An overall underestimation of 78.59% may be a result of observer error and/or technical error. More specifically, the results suggested that microbeads varying in colour and size have a different detection probability and that these microbead features are more important in underestimation likelihoods than grain sizes.