Intertek launches unique testing service for microbeads environmental impact assessment
January 19, 2017
(Liphook, UK) Intertek, a leading provider of quality solutions to industries worldwide, has launched a unique microbead environmental impact assessment service comprising analytical screening programmes and environmental impact assessment assurance services. It is the only commercial service to combine both impact assessment and multiple sample polymer testing for microplastics as one service.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles, smaller than five millimeters, resulting from the fragmentation of plastic waste and are intermediate products in plastic production or found as small pellets in personal care products. They pass easily through waste water filtration processes and are now found in almost all rivers, lakes and oceans, potentially transferring as contaminants into wildlife and threatening aquatic life. There has been increasing concern from environmental organisations and the public about the environmental impact of microbeads, which has prompted policy-makers and the industries that use them to take action.
Intertek has used the learning from its collaboration with The University of Basel in the world's first study of the distribution, levels and nature of microplastics in a major river system, which was published in Nature Journal’s Scientific Reports,* to develop a process to quantify sources of microbeads through sampling and analysis, which enables the handling and grouping of the thousands of particles. Microbeads in water samples taken from wastewater, rivers, lakes and oceans are isolated, screened and tested, to allow the identification of the plastic or polymer materials found by combining infrared and Raman spectroscopy approaches, and infrared and Raman microscopy techniques.
Working with its Energy and Water experts, Intertek experts quantify sources of microbeads present in the aquatic environment using their physical and chemical parameters. This data is then used to model how microbeads are dispersed in lakes, rivers, and coastal systems. Intertek teams then assess the environmental impact by considering the location of sensitive sites such as fish spawning areas, fisheries, drinking water abstraction points, recreational and other areas.
These studies drive a greater understanding of the origin and former use of the plastics debris and how the microbeads or microplastics are distributed in the aquatic environment, which can enable the reduction of levels of microplastics and assist in the planning and deployment of clean-up operations.
Rob van Dorp, Chief Executive UK & Ireland, said: “At Intertek, we have taken the learning from our involvement in the world’s first study of a major river system, to combine two of our expert services - environmental impact testing and multiple sample polymer screening - to develop a commercial screening, testing and environmental impact assessment solution for microbeads, which will help water authorities, fisheries and marine authorities to assess risks and develop plans to address this issue.”
More information: Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 17988 (2015)
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