Spider webs could help detect microplastics in the air we breathe

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Microplastics can be found at the lowest point in the ocean. they are in the Antarctic snow. They are on Mount Everest. Of course, these tiny particles of plastic waste are also found in the sticky traps of cobwebs. That sucks, but a Study published online for the August 2022 issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment investigated for the first time how cobwebs could be used as a tool to monitor microplastic pollution in urban air.

Microplastics can come from many sources, including textiles, water bottles, take-out containers and food packaging.

Environmental sciences student Rebecca Süssmuth from the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in Germany collected cobwebs at bus stops around Oldenburg.

The team conducted laboratory tests to filter out small particles and analyze the composition of the substances found. “All the cobwebs were contaminated with microplastics”, said study co-author Isabel Gossmann in a statement earlier this month. On some webs, microplastics made up a tenth of the total weight of the spider structures.

The researchers summarized particles from tires under the term microplastics. They found different concentrations of tire debris depending on how heavy the roads were at the bus stops where the lanes were collected.

The results show how cobwebs could give researchers a quick overview of microplastic pollution in a given area. It’s also a sobering reminder that these airborne particles are inhaled by humans. A study found earlier this year Microplastics in human bloodalthough the health risks are still unknown.

Visible rubbish such as discarded bottles is not the only problem. It’s also the little things we can’t see.

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