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    air quality case study 2020 mainThe Environment Times' Air Quality Case Study Collection for 2020 is available to read as a digital 'flickread' version, and with the option to download it as a pdf file too.

     

    See the stories from those tackling the air quality health and environmental problem.

     

    Either click on the following link or front cover image to access the publication  https://flickread.com/edition/html/5e787d30aafab#1

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    The built environment industry can influence the resilience, sustainability and quality of homes, buildings and elements of infrastructure and cities. Registration has opened for Futurebuild 2020 with a call to industry to act now if we are to successfully tackle the challenges facing us all. By joining the event from 03 to 05 March at ExCeL London, visitors will be able to unite with industry innovators to tackle climate change and become the catalyst for change that's so greatly needed.

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Friday, 05 January 2018 10:14

'Lost' human hair-width ocean microplastics now detected by fluorescent dye

The 'lost' 99%' of potentially harmful ocean microplastics could be identified cheaply with a fluorescent dye, its University of Warwick developers claim.

microplastics1 copyNew research, led by Gabriel Erni-Cassola and Dr. Joseph A. Christie-Oleza from Warwick's School of Life Sciences, has established a pioneering way to detect the smaller fraction of microplastics using a fluorescent dye. Many of the microplastics are as small as 20 micrometres - comparable to the width of a human hair or wool fibre.

The dye specifically binds to plastic particles, and renders them easily visible under a fluorescence microscope.

To test their new method, the researchers took samples from surface sea water and beach sand from the English coast around Plymouth. The researchers detected a much larger amount of tiny microplastics smaller than 1 mm than was previously estimated – and significantly more than would have been identified previously with traditional methods.

These results challenge the current belief of the apparent loss of the smallest microplastics from surface seawater, and highlights the need of further research to understand the real fate of plastic waste in the oceans.

Interestingly, the researchers also discovered that the greatest abundance of microplastics of this small size was polypropylene, a common polymer which is used in packaging and food containers – demonstrating that our consumer habits are directly affecting the oceans.

microplastics2 copyLarge plastic objects are known to fragment over time due to weathering processes, breaking down into smaller and smaller particles termed 'microplastics'. Microplastics are the most prevalent type of marine debris in our oceans, and their impact or potential harm to aquatic life is not yet fully understood.

Author Gabriel Erni-Cassola commented: "Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample.

"Current methods used to assess the amount of microplastics mostly consist in manually picking the microplastics out of samples one by one – demonstrating the great improvement of our method."

Co-author Dr Joseph A. Christie-Oleza commented: "Have we found the lost 99% of missing plastic in surface oceans? Obviously this method needs to be implemented in future scientific surveys to confirm our preliminary findings. It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies."

The research, 'Lost, but found with Nile red; a novel method to detect and quantify small microplastics (20 μm–1 mm) in environmental samples', is published in Environmental Science & Technology. It is co-authored by Professor Matthew Gibson from the University of Warwick's Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School, and Professor Richard C. Thompson from Plymouth University.

Research link: Lost, but found with Nile red