Microplastic pollution itself is a dangerous phenomenon for nature and man. Meanwhile, according to the latest research, various toxic substances can accumulate on its particles. The danger grows even greater when compounds begin to change form and react.
Microplastics – plastic particles ranging in size from a few nanometers to a few millimeters – are increasingly found in the environment. Many specialists suspect that they are harmful to nature and people in themselves, but at the same time they accumulate various other types of substances, such as heavy metals or poisonous organic substances.
A new study published in the academic journal “Environmental Science & Technology Letters” points to another threat – the transformation of toxic substances that combine with plastic particles.
Researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have found that, for example, chromium can change its oxidative state, and the impact of this metal on living organisms depends on it. III oxidation state is relatively safe, but IV – toxic. When mixed with polystyrene particles, chromium willingly changed into a poisonous form.
The situation got even worse when the researchers added substances present in creams with UV filters to the mixture. Chromium was then easier to attach to plastic and change its oxidation state even faster.
The second of these mixtures also turned out to be toxic to living organisms, specifically to algae. Algae growth was slowed down, which experts associate with the action of a poisonous form of chromium.
The results, according to the scientists, indicate a hitherto unknown threat related to the transformation of compounds settling on environmentally polluting plastics.
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