Traffic-related microplastic particles, metals, and organic pollutants in an urban area under reconstruction

In urban environments, particularly areas under reconstruction, metals, organic pollutants (OP), and microplastics (MP), are released in large amounts due to heavy traffic. Road runoff, a major transport route for urban pollutants, contributes significantly to a deterioratedwater quality in receivingwaters. This studywas conducted in Gothenburg, Sweden, and is unique because it simultaneously investigates the occurrence of OP, metals, and MP on roads and in stormwater from an urban area under reconstruction. Correlations between the various pollutants were also explored.

The study was carried out by collecting washwater and sweepsand generated from street sweeping, road surface sampling, and flow-proportional stormwater sampling on several occasions. The liquid and solid samples were analyzed for metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), oxyPAH, aliphatics, aromatics, phthalates, andMP. The occurrence ofOPwas also analyzedwith a non-target screening method of selected samples. Microplastics, i.e. plastic fragments/fibers, paint fragments, tire wear particles (TWP) and bitumen, were analyzed with a method based on density separation with sodium iodide and identificationwith a stereomicroscope, melt-tests, and tactile identification.MP concentrations amounted to 1500 particles/L in stormwater, 51,000 particles/L in washwater, and 2.6 × 106 particles/kg dw in sweepsand. In stormwater, washwater and sweepsand, MP ≥20 μmwere found to be dominated by TWP (38%, 83% and 78%, respectively). The results confirm traffic as an important source to MP, OP, andmetal emissions.

Concentrations exceeding water and sediment quality guidelines for metals (e.g. Cu and Zn), PAH, phthalates, and aliphatic hydrocarbons in the C16–C35 fraction were found inmost samples. The results show that the street sweeper collects large amounts of polluted materials and thereby prevents further spread of the pollutants to the receiving stormwater.

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Last updated: 2021-12-06

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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