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Current Affairs

Nanoplastics and its effects

Date: 26 June 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Scientists are studying nanoplastics in detail in order to understand its behaviour in terrestrial environments, especially agricultural soils.

 

Background

The concern about improper disposal of plastic has been going on for a while now. Today, more and more people are worried about micro- and nanoplastics ending up in the oceans and in seafood.

 

Details

  • The findings provide direct evidence that nanoplastics can accumulate in plants, depending on their surface charge.

  • Plant accumulation of nanoplastics can have both direct ecological effects and implications for agricultural sustainability and food safety.

  • Experiments have given evidence of nanoplastics uptake and accumulation in plants in the laboratory at the tissue and molecular level using microscopic, molecular and genetic approaches.

  • The researchers found that nanoplastics reduced the total biomass of model plants. That is, the plants exposed to nanoplastic were smaller and had shorter roots. This, in turn, compromised the nutritional value of the plant.

  • The positively charged particles were not taken up so much, but are more harmful to the plant. They interact more with water, nutrients and roots, and trigger different sets of gene expressions.

 

Nanoplastics

  • Nanoplastics are particles that comprise various polymers (e.g. PET – Polyethylene terephthalate, PS - Polystyrene). Depending on the definition used they are less than 1 μm or less than 100 nm in size, respectively.

  • Primary nanoplastic particles are intentionally produced and used in various products, such as cosmetics, washing powders, as well as in research and diagnostics. They are often of a defined size or size distribution and usually consist of only one polymer type for a given application.

  • Secondary nanoplastics are formed in the environment, especially in rivers and oceans, by fragmenting larger pieces of plastic. These are released through the improper disposal of waste into the environment where they are decomposed by the influence of sun, wind and waves into even smaller pieces.