Microplastics release precursors of chlorinated and brominated disinfection byproducts in water
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Microplastics (MPs) are prevalent global pollutants that are being detected in aquatic ecosystems and drinking water sources around the world. In addition to plastic polymers, MPs contain various chemical substances (known as “additives”) that can leach and risk water quality. In this paper, we investigated for the first time the potential release of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) precursors when MPs are exposed to hydrolysis and/or degradation by simulated sunlight. Seventeen MPs with seven different polymer types were collected either as commercial products (e.g. drinking water bottles, shopping bags, recycled plastics, etc.) or pure/virgin polymers. Results showed high release of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from five MP samples and a significant increase in bromide concentrations from four MPs. DBPs formation potential (DBPFP) experiments with MPs’ leachates showed higher concentrations of chlorinated trihalomethanes (THMs), haloacetonitriles (HANs), and total organic halogens (TOX) in three samples, while a significant shift to brominated DBPs was observed in samples containing bromide. Extending the leaching experiments to four consecutive cycles showed that the leaching of DOC and DBPs’ precursor significantly decreased after the second leaching cycle. Further analysis revealed that the reactivity of the leached DOC e indicated by THMFP yields e was comparable to those of several raw waters that supply drinking water treatment plants. The leached THMs and TOX from MPs that were exposed to UVA irradiation were in general higher than MPs that were run under dark conditions.