Degradation of nanoplastics in the environment: Reactivity and impact on atmospheric and surface waters

Angelica Bianco, Fabrizio Sordello, Mikael Ehn, Davide Vione, Monica Passananti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Microplastics (MPs) and nanoplastics (NPs) are ubiquitous and contaminate soil, surface waters, atmospheric aerosol, precipitations, indoor and outdoor environments. However, the occurrence, transformation and fate of NPs in the environment are still unclear. In this work, polystyrene nanoparticles (PS-NPs) are used as a proxy of NPs to study their reactivity and potential impact on atmospheric and surface waters. In particular, the reactivity with hydroxyl radicals (center dot OH) in the aqueous phase is investigated. For the first time, a reactivity constant for the reaction of NPs with center dot OH is measured, strongly dependent on the exposed partide surface area of NPs. Degradation products (short chain carboxylic acids and aromatic compounds), obtained by direct and center dot OH-mediated photolysis of PS-NPs suspensions, are identified by mass spectrometry. Irradiation of a PS-NPs suspension under natural sunlight for 1 year has shown the formation of formic acid and organic compounds similar to those found in riverine and cloud dissolved organic matter, which could contribute significantly to the dissolved organic matter in the aqueous phase. (C) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140413
JournalThe Science of the Total Environment
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 114 Physical sciences
  • 1172 Environmental sciences
  • Nanoplastics
  • Polystyrene
  • Hydroxyl radical
  • Dissolved organic matter
  • Kinetic constant

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