Occurrence of microplastics in raw and treated drinking water

Microplastics: new methods are needed to filter tiny particles from drinking water, 2019

The presence of plastics in aquatic environments is a growing concern across the EU. This study explored the amount of microplastic particles present in raw and treated water at three water-treatment plants in the Czech Republic. While treated water contained fewer particles than raw1 fresh water, the amount found in treated water was not negligible, and largely comprised tiny particles of <10 micrometres (μm) in diameter. Ways to filter microplastics from potable water must be identified and their risk to humans, sources and routes into drinking water determined, say the researchers, Science for Environment Policy reports.

Highlights

  • Microplastics were present in all water samples from different treatment plants.
  • The concentration of microplastics was higher in raw water than in treated water.
  • Particles of 1–10 μm were the most abundant, accounting for up to 95%.
  • Polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene and polyethylene microplastics prevailed.

Abstract

The study investigates the content of microplastic particles in freshwater and drinking water. Specifically, three water treatment plants (WTPs) supplied by different kinds of water bodies were selected and their raw and treated water was analysed for microplastics (MPs). Microplastics were found in all water samples and their average abundance ranged from 1473 ± 34 to 3605 ± 497 particles L−1 in raw water and from 338 ± 76 to 628 ± 28 particles L−1 in treated water, depending on the WTP. This study is one of very few that determine microplastics down to the size of 1 μm, while MPs smaller than 10 μm were the most plentiful in both raw and treated water samples, accounting for up to 95%. Further, MPs were divided into three categories according to their shape. Fragments clearly prevailed at two of the WTPs and fibres together with fragments predominated at one case. Despite 12 different materials forming the microplastics being identified, the majority of the MPs (>70%) comprised of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), PP (polypropylene) and PE (polyethylene). This study contributes to fill the knowledge gap in the field of emerging microplastic pollution of drinking water and water sources, which is of concern due to the potential exposure of microplastics to humans.

Anti-inflammatory drugs and contraceptive pills polluting our waters – A 20year systematic review

Monitoring, sources, receptors, and control measures for three European Union watch list substances of emerging concern in receiving waters, 2017

2017 Study Abstract

Pollution of European receiving waters with contaminants of emerging concern (CECs),

  1. such as with 17-beta-estradiol (a natural estrogenic hormone, E2),
  2. along with pharmaceutically-active compounds diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory drug, DCL)
  3. and 17-alpha-ethynylestradiol (a synthetic estrogenic hormone, EE2))

is a ubiquitous phenomenon. These three CECs were added to the EU watch list of emerging substances to be monitoring in 2013, which was updated in 2015 to comprise 10 substances/groups of substances in the field of water policy.

A systematic literature review was conducted of 3952 potentially relevant articles over period 1995 to 2015 that produced a new EU-wide database consisting of 1268 publications on DCL, E2 and EE2. European surface water concentrations of DCL are typically reported below the proposed annual average environmental quality standard (AA EQS) of 100ng/l, but that exceedances frequently occur. E2 and EE2 surface water concentrations are typically below 50ng/l and 10ng/l respectively, but these values greatly exceed the proposed AA EQS values for these compounds (0.04 and 0.035ng/l respectively). However, levels of these CECs are frequently reported to be disproportionately high in EU receiving waters, particularly in effluents at control points that require urgent attention.

Overall it was found that DCL and EE2 enter European aquatic environment mainly following human consumption and excretion of therapeutic drugs, and by incomplete removal from influent at urban wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). E2 is a natural hormone excreted by humans which also experiences incomplete removal during WWTPs treatment. Current conventional analytical chemistry methods are sufficiently sensitive for the detection and quantification of DCL but not for E2 and EE2, thus alternative, ultra-trace, time-integrated monitoring techniques such as passive sampling are needed to inform water quality for these estrogens. DCL appears resistant to conventional wastewater treatment while E2 and EE2 have high removal efficiencies that occur through biodegradation or sorption to organic matter.

There is a pressing need to determine fate and behaviour of these CECs in European receiving waters such as using GIS-modelling of river basins as this will identify pressure points for informing priority decision making and alleviation strategies for upgrade of WWTPs and for hospital effluents with advanced treatment technologies. More monitoring data for these CECs in receiving waters is urgently needed for EU legislation and effective risk management

EU requirements to provide results for authorised clinical trials – EC, EMA, MHA

Call for all sponsors to publish clinical trial results in EU database (joint letter by the European Commission, EMA and HMA)

 

The European Commission (EC), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) have co-signed a letter reminding all sponsors of clinical trials conducted in the European Union of their obligation to make summaries of results of concluded trials publicly available in the EU Clinical Trials Database (EudraCT).

Transparency and public access to clinical trial results, whether positive or negative, are fundamental for the protection and promotion of public health. It assures trial subjects that their voluntary participation in clinical trials is useful and that the results have been collated and reported for the benefit of all. In addition, for those medicines which are placed on the market or used in further clinical trials, it allows patients and healthcare professionals, or any other citizen, to find out more information about medicines they might be taking or prescribing. Transparency also enhances scientific knowledge and helps to advance clinical research and support more efficient medicine development programmes.

It is the responsibility of sponsors to ensure that the protocol information and results of all clinical trials is submitted in EudraCT; this information is publicly available through the EU Clinical Trials Register (EU CTR). Since July 2014, sponsors are required to post results within one year after the end of a clinical trial (or six months for a paediatric trial). This information is also shared with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) of which EU CTR is a primary registry.

As of April 2019, the EudraCT database included 57,687 clinical trials in total, out of which 27,093 were completed. Out of these completed trials, 18,432 should have had results posted; sponsors were in compliance with the publication requirements for 68.2% (12,577) of the trials, however results were still lacking for 31.8% of them (5,855).

The reporting compliance of non-commercial sponsors (e.g. academia) was much lower than for commercial sponsors (i.e. companies), with 23.6% of results posted for non-commercial sponsors vs 77.2% for commercial sponsors. Academic sponsors or smaller companies often lack awareness or incentives to post clinical results, therefore EU authorities are taking various steps to ensure sponsors are aware of their obligations and can act on them.

One of these initiatives is the “letter to stakeholders regarding the requirements to provide results for authorised clinical trials in EudraCT”, co-signed by Anne Bucher, Director General of the EC’s DG Health and Food Safety, Guido Rasi, Executive Director of EMA, and Thomas Senderovitz, Chair of the HMA Management Group. It will be disseminated to various stakeholder groups, with a goal in particular to reach academic sponsors. This should help to spread the word about the importance of making clinical trial results publicly available.

Amongst other initiatives conducted at EU level, EMA has since September 2018 been identifying trials with missing results on a monthly basis and sending reminders to the sponsors of those trials to ensure compliance with the transparency rules and their follow up on their results reporting obligations.

Reference.

Nearly half of (Italian) playgrounds tested contaminated by pesticide(s)

Pesticide contamination and associated risk factors at public playgrounds near intensively managed apple and wine orchards

2019 Study Abstract

Background
Pesticide levels are generally monitored within agricultural areas, but are commonly not assessed at public places. To assess possible contamination of non-target areas, 71 public playgrounds located next to intensively managed apple and wine orchards were selected in four valleys of South Tyrol (northern Italy). Further, the impact of environmental site characteristics on the number and concentration of pesticides was assessed. Grass samples from the selected playgrounds were collected and screened for 315 pesticide residues using standard gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

Results
Nearly half of the playgrounds (45%) were contaminated by at least one pesticide and a quarter (24%) by more than one. Eleven of the 12 different detected pesticides are classified as endocrine-active substances including the insecticide phosmet and the fungicide fluazinam showing the highest concentrations (0.069 and 0.26 mg kg−1, respectively). Additionally, one disinfectant and one preservation agent was found. Playgrounds in Venosta valley were most often contaminated (76% of all investigated playgrounds), highest concentrations were found in the Low Adige (2.02 mg kg−1). Pesticide concentrations were positively associated with areal proportion of apple orchards in the surroundings, the amount of rainfall and wind speed. In contrast, increasing global irradiance, opposite wind direction, increasing distance to agricultural sites and high wind speeds when pesticide application was not allowed were associated with decreasing pesticide contamination.

Conclusion
This study is among the first investigating pesticide contamination of public playgrounds together with environmental factors in areas with pesticide-intensive agriculture at the beginning of the growing season. It is likely that playgrounds will be affected by more pesticides and higher concentrations over the course of the crop season. The result, that the majority of the detected pesticides are classified as endocrine active is worrisome as children are especially vulnerable. Hence, we recommend that pesticide risk assessments should better include protection measures for non-target areas.
Image Antonio Thomás Koenigkam Oliveira.

An agroecological Europe in 2050: multifunctional agriculture for healthy eating

Findings from the Ten Years For Agroecology (TYFA) modelling exercise

The Independent Institution for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) published its “Ten Years for Agroecologyresearch, showing that a transition to a kind of agriculture that is free from synthetic chemistry is absolutely realistic.

AGROECOLOGY: AN AMBITIOUS AND SYSTEMIC PROJECT

Jointly addressing the challenges of sustainable food for Europeans, the preser-vation of biodiversity and natural resources and the fight against climate change requires a profound transition of our agricultural and food system. An agroeco-logical project based on the phasing-out of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and the redeployment of extensive grasslands and landscape infrastructure would allow these issues to be addressed in a coherent manner.

AN ORIGINAL MODELLING OF THE EUROPEAN FOOD SYSTEM

The TYFA project explores the possibility of generalising such agroecology on a European scale by analysing the uses and needs of current and future agri-cultural production. An original quantitative model (TYFAm), linking on a systemic manner agricultural production, production methods and land use, makes it possible to analyse retrospectively the functioning of the European food system and to quantify an agroecological scenario by 2050 by testing the implications of different hypotheses.

PROSPECTS FOR A LESS PRODUCTIVE AGROECOLOGICAL SYSTEM

Europe’s increasingly unbalanced and over-rich diets, particularly in animal products, contribute to the increase in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They are based on intensive, highly dependent agriculture: (i) synthetic pesticides and fertilizers—with proven health and environmental conse- quences; (ii) imports of vegetable proteins for animal feed—making Europe a net importer of agricultural land. A change in diet less rich in animal products thus opens up prospects for a transition to an agroecology not bound to main-tain current yields, thus opening new fields for environmental management.

SUSTAINABLE FOOD FOR 530 MILLION EUROPEANS

The TYFA scenario is based on the widespread adoption of agroecology, the phasing-out of vegetable protein imports and the adoption of healthier diets by 2050. Despite an induced drop in production of 35% compared to 2010 (in Kcal), this scenario: – provides healthy food for Europeans while maintaining export capacity; – reduces Europe’s global food footprint; – leads to a 40% reduction in GHG emissions from the agricultural sector; – regains biodiversity and conserves natural resources.Further work is needed and underway on the socio-economic and policy impli-cations of the TYFA scenario.

Nanoplastics damage marine creatures’ natural defences, increasing lethal effects of POPs

Nanoplastic Ingestion Enhances Toxicity of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Monogonont Rotifer Brachionus koreanus via Multixenobiotic Resistance (MXR) Disruption

Nano-sized particles of plastic can be more damaging to marine species than larger sized microplastics, a new study shows.

Lab tests revealed that nanoplastics can damage cell membranes in tiny marine creatures called rotifers (Rotifera), disrupting their natural defences against toxicants.

The researchers found that rotifers that had been exposed to nanoparticles of polystyrene were significantly more susceptible to the lethal effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Reference.

Abstract

Among the various materials found inside microplastic pollution, nanosized microplastics are of particular concern due to difficulties in quantification and detection; moreover, they are predicted to be abundant in aquatic environments with stronger toxicity than microsized microplastics. Here, we demonstrated a stronger accumulation of nanosized microbeads in the marine rotifer Brachionus koreanus compared to microsized ones, which was associated with oxidative stress-induced damages on lipid membranes. In addition, multixenobiotic resistance conferred by P-glycoproteins and multidrug resistance proteins, as a first line of membrane defense, was inhibited by nanoplastic pre-exposure, leading to enhanced toxicity of 2,2′,4,4′-tetrabromodiphenyl ether and triclosan in B. koreanus. Our study provides a molecular mechanistic insight into the toxicity of nanosized microplastics toward aquatic invertebrates and further implies the significance of synergetic effects of microplastics with other environmental persistent organic pollutants.

The early-life exposome: Description and patterns in six European countries

Exploring the exposome: study measures multitude of environmental influences on health

Scientists have measured how children and pregnant women are exposed to over 120 environmental factors influencing our health — from air and noise pollution to green space and access to public transport.

The study gathered and analysed data from six European countries to build a picture of the ‘exposome’ — the array of environmental factors that humans are exposed to from the moment they are conceived.

A better understanding of the exposome could help us understand the role of the environment in the onset of various diseases, including cancer and other chronic disorders such as cardiovascular disease. Reference.

Highlights

  • The early-life exposome is high dimensional and not easily reducible to fewer components.
  • Correlations between exposures within the same exposure group can be high.
  • Correlations between exposures in different exposure groups are low.
  • The exposome varies strongly by location and by life period.

Abstract

Characterization of the “exposome”, the set of all environmental factors that one is exposed to from conception onwards, has been advocated to better understand the role of environmental factors on chronic diseases.

Here, we aimed to describe the early-life exposome. Specifically, we focused on the correlations between multiple environmental exposures, their patterns and their variability across European regions and across time (pregnancy and childhood periods). We relied on the Human Early-Life Exposome (HELIX) project, in which 87 environmental exposures during pregnancy and 122 during the childhood period (grouped in 19 exposure groups) were assessed in 1301 pregnant mothers and their children at 6–11 years in 6 European birth cohorts.

Some correlations between exposures in the same exposure group reached high values above 0.8. The median correlation within exposure groups was >0.3 for many exposure groups, reaching 0.69 for water disinfection by products in pregnancy and 0.67 for the meteorological group in childhood. Median correlations between different exposure groups rarely reached 0.3. Some correlations were driven by cohort-level associations (e.g. air pollution and chemicals). Ten principal components explained 45% and 39% of the total variance in the pregnancy and childhood exposome, respectively, while 65 and 90 components were required to explain 95% of the exposome variability. Correlations between maternal (pregnancy) and childhood exposures were high (>0.6) for most exposures modeled at the residential address (e.g. air pollution), but were much lower and even close to zero for some chemical exposures.

In conclusion, the early life exposome was high dimensional, meaning that it cannot easily be measured by or reduced to fewer components. Correlations between exposures from different exposure groups were much lower than within exposure groups, which have important implications for co-exposure confounding in multiple exposure studies. Also, we observed the early life exposome to be variable over time and to vary by cohort, so measurements at one time point or one place will not capture its complexities.

Evidence that Pesticide Active Substances are Transported Through Air

New study results prove a significant transport of pesticides over distances of many kilometres up to remote side valleys

Gone with the wind

Measurement of pesticides in the air in Vinschgau in 2018

Task

If pesticides are used in agriculture, they never end up in their target location one hundred percent. A part remains in the ground, reaches waters or is carried away through the air by wind and thermals. In orchards, characteristic for the landscape of the Vinschgau Valley in Italy‘s German speaking province South Tyrol, this transport of particles through the air is a particularly serious problem as the spraying isn’t only done from top to bottom, but also sideways into the trees.

The aim of the study was to measure this effect to

  • provide evidence that pesticide active substances are transported through air
  • trace the spatial distribution of the various active substances
  • trace the temporal distribution of the various active substances during one growing season.

Method

Two passive collectors (TE-200-PAS) produced by the company Tisch Environment were set up at each of the four locations with very different exposure scenarios and fitted with matching disks of polyurethane foam. The material is characterised by a large internal surface on which volatilised organic pollutants can adsorb.

This method was developed in the Canadian Ministry of Environment and has been used worldwide for many years, for example in the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling Network. The use of the standardised collection medium enables a comparison between the pollution of the locations with an active substance when compared to each other and over a course of time.

The disks were purified in a laboratory before use to prevent pollutants from distorting the results. They were replaced every three weeks and sent to a laboratory for analysis in cooling boxes by express delivery. There they were extracted with methanol and the eluate was analysed for a total of 29 pesticide active substances that would probably be used in the region.

Locations

The four locations were selected in such a way that different levels of air pollution with pesticides could be expected due to different exposure scenarios. The specific locations were as follows:

  1. A garden within the closed village of Mals/Malles Venosta. The location is relatively well protected because the property is surrounded by a hedge and there are further buildings around the property. The location was selected to determine whether spray drift is detectable in built-up areas and at the edge of the fruit production core area.
  2. The second location was chosen as centrally as possible in an orchard in the central Vinschgau. The orchard is cultivated according to biological criteria, but is located in the immediate vicinity of conventional orchards.
  3. A third location was chosen remote from inhabited or cultivated areas above the valley floor in a side valley. The selected site is a slope near a stream course at the road from the village of Burgeis to Schlinig.
  4. Finally, a location was chosen where a lot of spray drift was to be expected without pesticides being used on the site itself. For this purpose, the two collectors were set up on a further organic farm in the central Vinschgau in such a way that air from the surroundings could very well flow into them.

Results

Further results are as follows:

  • In the first measurement period from 23rd February to 16th March none of the 29 active substances was detected at any of the four locations.
  • In the following eight measurement periods a total of 20 active substances was detected and up to 14 different substances were found in one sample at the same time.
  • The more distant the site is from the conventional orchards, the lower the amount and number of active substances detected. The highest pollution could be found at site D, followed by B, A and C.
  • Six active substances were detected at all four locations: fluazinam, captan, phosmet, chlorpyrifos-methyl, dithianon und imidacloprid. This indicates an intensive use and a significant potential of transport through air.
  • Six further active substances are found at the three locations D, B and A: dodin, penconazole, cyprodinil, difenoconazole, thiacloprid and etofenprox. So they are even detectable in the air in the village of Mals in a fairly well protected environment.

Many of the pesticides that have been detected in the samples represent a significant threat to humans and the environment. Thus, for example

  • captan is labeled with H351 (“suspected of causing cancer”) in the hazard classification of the EU Pesticides Database.
  • The insecticide thiacloprid, besides being suspected of causing cancer, is classified as “May damage fertility” and “May damage the unborn child” (H360FD) and is closely monitored by the EU Commission because it interferes with the human hormone system.
  • imidacloprid is extremely toxic to bees and other insects. The median lethal dose for individual honeybees was stated to be 3.8 ng in the authorisation procedure.

Conclusion

Overall, the results prove a significant transport of pesticides over distances of many kilometres up to remote side valleys.

The results provide a clear indication of the difficult conditions for organic farms in the vicinity of intensive, conventional apple orchards.

In addition, the results point out a risk aspect that has been underestimated up to now: Compared to individual active substances, the overall pollution with pesticides causes a significantly higher exposure that continues to exist over the course of the season and thus a correspondingly higher risk potential.

Reference.

Related

Disinfection by-products in drinking water : an emerging health concern

Evaluating gas chromatography with a halogen-specific detector for the determination of disinfection by-products in drinking water

DBPs come in many classes and are chemically diverse, making them challenging to monitor. Swedish researchers have evaluated a new method for the simultaneous determination of a broader range of DBPs than typically possible using other available techniques. The method uses gas chromatography (a laboratory technique that separates and analyses vaporisable compounds in a mixture), together with a halogen-specific detector (XSD). Having been tested in real water samples from two municipal waterworks in Sweden, the method has been optimised for the simultaneous determination of a wide range of neutral DBPs.

2018 Study Abstract

The occurrence of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water has become an issue of concern during the past decades. The DBPs pose health risks and are suspected to cause various cancer forms, be genotoxic, and have negative developmental effects. The vast chemical diversity of DBPs makes comprehensive monitoring challenging. Only few of the DBPs are regulated and included in analytical protocols. In this study, a method for simultaneous measurement of 20 DBPs from five different structural classes (both regulated and non-regulated) was investigated and further developed for 11 DBPs using solid-phase extraction and gas chromatography coupled with a halogen-specific detector (XSD). The XSD was highly selective towards halogenated DBPs, providing chromatograms with little noise. The method allowed detection down to 0.05 μg L−1 and showed promising results for the simultaneous determination of a range of neutral DBP classes. Compounds from two classes of emerging DBPs, more cytotoxic than the “traditional” regulated DBPs, were successfully determined using this method. However, haloacetic acids (HAAs) should be analyzed separately as some HAA methyl esters may degrade giving false positives of trihalomethanes (THMs). The method was tested on real water samples from two municipal waterworks where the target DBP concentrations were found below the regulatory limits of Sweden.

What are the health costs of environmental pollution ?

Science for Environment Policy, December 2018, Issue 21

From sleepless nights caused by traffic noise to death, quantifying the toll of environmental pollution on human health has been the subject of much research. Hospital visits and incidences of illness can be counted and linked to certain types of pollution through statistical analysis; and although life and health are of intrinsic value, ascertaining a monetary equivalent that reflects public preference for the allocation of scarce resources offers a practical metric for use in policymaking so that we can better take account of them. Such a metric needs to account for the full costs of health impacts, including burdens on healthcare services, reduced economic productivity and, most importantly, lost utility associated with premature death, pain and suffering. Calculating these costs has been the subject of a number of studies over the last 30 years, with the resulting figures informing both media headlines and cost-benefit analysis in the field of environmental policymaking.

This Future Brief outlines some of the methodologies that have been used to account for health costs, both in Europe and other parts of the world. The strengths and weaknesses of each methodology are considered, and their potential applications explored. Finally, the future directions of research in this field are investigated.

Health costs related to three key categories of pollution — air pollution, noise pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals — are touched upon with an introduction given to each. However, environmental pollution is not limited to these categories (it can also be linked to water pollution, indoor air pollution, biological contamination, ionising or UV radiation and more) but it is beyond the scope of this brief to cover each in detail.

Reference.