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The widespread use of plastics in everyday items and manufacturing processes has led to an ubiquitous presence of plastic particles in the environment. The poor biodegradability of plastics leads to a long residence time in nature, where they undergo different aging and degradation processes. Some microplastics are generated through the disintegration of large plastic fragments into smaller pieces due to weathering, others come from consumer products containing micrometric plastic particles. Microplastics include all polymer particles that are smaller than 5 mm in diameter. Microplastics have already been detected in water, soil, beaches, clothing, bottled water, air, fish and shellfish, but major sources are:

  • Clothes
  • Plastic waste
  • Paints
  • Tire dust
  • Personal care products

Microplastics present in our environment and in our food chain have an impact on human, animal and ecosystem health. The impact on human health of microplastics contamination is currently unknown as the discovery is relatively new, it is then fundamental to study the composition, physical properties and amount of microplastics in nature, as well as their biological and toxicological effects on humans. Information on microplastic shape, polymer type, size, density, colour, chemical composition and number of particles in a sample can be used to determine their fate in the environment and what is truly relevant to human and ecological health. In addition, some of these properties can help identify the main contamination sources.

Optical microscopy has proved to be simple, easy to perform and a very inexpensive methodology for characterizing the physical properties of microplastics coming from different environmental samples, but chemical analysis is indispensable to reduce false and negative positives and identify the nature of polymers. Therefore, optical microscopy have to be coupled to chemical analysis for polymer identification and to discern microplastics from other contaminants.

In Alfatestlab we use Morphologically-Directed Raman Spectroscopic analysis (MDRS) to provide a complete fingerprint, i.e. a morphological characterization with chemical identity of each selected particle in a single automated analysis of a wide range of microplastics. In particular, the technique used in Alfatestlab provides particle size and particle shape information from automated image analysis and combines it with Raman spectroscopy to chemically identify and classify plastic particles, thus allowing us to compare particle size and shape distributions of the different plastic types. This is a fast and reliable method for comparing your microplastic samples and deliver accurate measurements. Furthermore, with this technique Alfatestlab is able to easily discern microplastics from other contaminants in your sample.

 Contact us to use the latest generation technological platform for morphological and chemical characterization of your microplastics samples.

More details here below on our analytical services for Microplastics: