The rapid increases in microplastics in urban lake sediments

Microplastics have received widespread attention as an emerging global pollutant. However, the research on the abundance and characteristics of microplastics entering the environment throughout history has been limited. Meanwhile, the determination of the start of the Anthropocene is important because humans have become a vital force affecting the environment and Earth surface processes. It is unclear whether the plastic can be used as an artefact to indicate the start of the Anthropocene. 

In this study by Mingtan Dong et al., combined with 137Cs, 210Pb, and spherical carbonaceous particles (SCP) high-resolution chronology, a microplastics-time curve was established by using the sedimentary record from an urban lake in Wuhan city. The microplastic abundance increased from 741 items·kg−1 to 7707 items·kg−1 over the past 60 years. The microplastics were mainly fibres and composed of polyester and rayon polymers, which indicated that the microplastics most likely originated from textiles. The surfaces of the older microplastics were rough and weathered with many absorbed elements. Microplastics are similar to fossils belonging to the Anthropocene, and may be used as an indicator. The comparison of microplastic-time curves in different records on a global scale will be necessary in the future.

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