Are There Plastic Particles in My Sugar? A Pioneering Study on the Identification/Characterization of Microplastics in Commercial Sugars and Risk Assessment
28 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2022
Although several studies are confirming the ubiquity of microplastics (MPs) in environments, our knowledge about their effects on human health is still very limited. Therefore, while we have not gathered definitive information on their consequences, studies that aim to identify the MPs sources constitute subsidies to better understand the various exposure pathways to these pollutants. Thus, we investigated the possible presence of MP-like particles in five brands of commercial sugars and two unpacked, unbranded, and unlabeled sugars (hereinafter referred to as "non-branded"), obtained from different supermarkets in Dhaka (Bangladesh). Surprisingly, MPs-like particles were identified in all analyzed samples and taken together, our data demonstrated similar variations (between branded and non-branded samples) in terms of number, size, shape, color, and polymer composition. The number of plastic particles/kg sugar was, on average, 343.7 ± 32.08 (mean ± SEM), having been observed a tendency for a higher frequency of MPs < 300 µm. Overall, microfibers and spherules were the most and the predominant colors of MPs (in general) were black, pink, blue, and brown. The FT-IR analysis confirmed the chemical nature of MPs (in branded and non-branded), having identified nine polymeric types (ABS, PCV, PET, EVA, CA, PTFE, HDPE, PC, and nylon), being ABS and PVC the most frequent. Furthermore, we estimate that MPs emission through sugar in Dhaka City can cause the emission of 2.4 to 25.6 tons annually (with an average of 10.2 tons) of MPs. Our study is the most comprehensive report on the MP’s occurrence in sugar, confirming that the ingestion of this food constitutes an important route of human exposure to these micropollutants and, therefore, serves as a baseline for future assessments and useful for generating efficient strategies to control MPs.
Keywords: Micropollutants, microplastic contamination, sugar mills, sugar intake, FT-IR, risk assessment
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