Tyre particles from vehicles can transfer large quantities of microplastics into our rivers and oceans, researchers from the University of Newcastle have received funding to research the impact that these particles are having on the marine environment.
Earlier this year, research conducted by the Universities of Newcastle and Plymouth revealed that up to 100million m² of the UK’s river network – and more than 50million m² of estuarine and coastal waters – are at risk of contamination by tyre particles.
The researchers will use techniques used in this project to construct and validate models describing the dispersal of tyre particles in inshore waters.
This information will then be used to establish the potential for any associated risks to marine life at environmentally relevant concentrations.
Dr Geoff Abbott, who is directing the analytical geochemistry in the tyre-loss project said: ‘Synthetic rubber, a plastic polymer, is a major component of tyres today. A substantial quantity of tyre wear is therefore potentially a major contributor to microplastic pollution in the marine environment.
‘A highly sensitive instrument called a mass spectrometer is being used at Newcastle University which can detect and measure even the smallest amounts of these microplastics in the water, sediment and marine life. The likelihood of any associated risks to marine life can then be established.’
Professor Richard Thompson, head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth added: ‘Over many years, we have demonstrated that the sources and impacts of microplastics are incredibly varied and complex. In comparison to other sources, relatively little is still known about the precise quantities of tyre particles in the marine environment and the effects they have once there.
‘This project is important to further our understanding and brings together partners with whom we have worked previously on ground-breaking research into the causes and effects of marine litter. The advisory group also ensures that our evidence can be used to help guide solutions as it is only by working in tandem with industry and policymakers that we can truly address the global crisis of plastic pollution.’
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