Microplastics from Wastewater Effluent as Vectors for Pharmaceutical & Personal Care Products to Rivers and Estuaries

Principal Investigator:

Lance Yonkos

Start/End Year:

2019 - 2020


University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator:

Alterra Sanchez, University of Maryland College Park (UMCP)

Strategic focus area:

Healthy coastal ecosystems


Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) are concentrated in wastewater and sorb to microplastics (MPs) to concentrations magnitudes higher than the surrounding water. However, there is a large knowledge gap concerning PPCPs and their association with MPs found in wastewater. Ecotoxicity studies conducted on the effects of MPs and sorbed organic contaminants (OCs) have shown conflicting results, largely due to the lack of MP standards. Therefore, the objectives of this project are to: 1) validate methodology for creating standard MP particles; 2) quantify the sorption distribution of four PPCPs; and 3) measure the temporal variation of MPs from effluent, and their loading of nine PPCPs, from an advanced wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Methods from this project will enable the design of realistic and comparable experiments through standardized MPs. The WWTP survey will provide local information on MP/PPCP pollution and will be the first time MP input from effluent into the Potomac River has been measured. Together, the data produced during this project will aid in creating comprehensive ecological risk assessments and a better understanding of human health implications from consuming seafood.

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