Microplastics

Several studies refer to a harmful effect of microplastics on humans and animals. Microplastic particles are also found in foods such as mineral water, fish, and salt. But how is this to be analyzed and evaluated?

Microplastics are defined as microscopic particles consisting of synthetic polymers (plastics) in the size range from 1 micrometer to 5 millimeters. These particles can contaminate the products in different ways. Typical examples are contamination through abrasion from the packaging and processing or – as in the case of some cosmetics – through being intentionally added. The routes of entry into the environment are manifold, e.g. via sewage systems, by wind, or by improper waste disposal.

The detection of microplastics is a complex analytical challenge. As one of the first industrial service providers in this field, we are driving the state of the art forward. We provide reliable results based on analytical methods and are able to analyze even very small particles (< 10 microns) safely using Raman microspectroscopy. Furthermore, FTIR spectroscopy, SEM-EDX, and light microscopy are beneficial, additional methods to close the analytical gaps of Raman analysis. The focus at present is on the examination of water samples (e.g. mineral water, spring water, process water). A high quality standard is achieved due to working in low-particle laboratory areas (e.g. laminar flow box) and the routine documentation of blank values.

Our services:

  • Determination of particle numbers and particle size distribution (light microscopy)
  • Determination of particle identity (Raman, FTIR, SEM-EDX)
  • Determination of the microplastic content (particle count-based)
  • Consulting on sampling and process control issues
  • Support on site (e.g. sampling)

More information: Microparticles and Microplastics (PDF)

Experts´ News

ECHA plans to limit deliberately added microplastic particles

Several Member States have already imposed restrictions on the use of so-called microbeads in cosmetics. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has now proposed the restriction of microplastics in fertilizers, plant protection products, cosmetic products, detergents and paints.

https://echa.europa.eu/hot-topics/microplastics

Revised Drinking Water Directive expected to come into effect in July 2020

Microplastics under observation: The European Union plans to include microplastics to the watchlist. This happens in order to protect the quality of European drinking waters.

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-drink/review_en.html

Example from practice:

Fig. 1: Example of a filtered water sample. Right: section of the filter surface to illustrate the detected particles

 

Fig. 2: Example of an identified microplastic particle from a mineral water sample. Below: Raman spectrum of the particle compared to a plastic reference (PET).

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