Limited attention has been given to the presence of MPs in the atmospheric environment, particularly in indoor environments where people spend about 90% of their time. This study quantitatively assesses the prevalence, source and type of MPs in Australian homes with the goal of evaluating human health exposure potential. Thirty-two airborne indoor deposited dust samples were collected in glass Petri dishes from Sydney (Australia) homes, over a one-month period in 2019. Participants completed a questionnaire on their household characteristics. Samples were analysed using a stereomicroscope, a fluorescent microscope and micro-Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy for their colour, size, shape and composition. Inhalation and ingestion rates were modelled using US EPA exposure factors. Microplastic fibre deposition rates ranged from 22 to 6169 fibres/m2/day. Deposited dust comprised 99% fibres. The highest proportion of fibres (19%) were 200–400 μm in length. The majority were natural (42%); 18% were transformed natural-based fibres; and 39% were petrochemical based. A significant difference was observed between the deposition rate and the main floor covering (p-value <0.05). Polyethylene, polyester, polyamide, polyacrylic, and polystyrene fibres were found in higher abundance in homes with carpet as the main floor covering. Where carpet was absent, polyvinyl fibres were the most dominant petrochemical fibre type, indicating the role of flooring materials (e.g. wood varnishes) in determining MP composition. Vacuum cleaner use was significantly related to MP deposition rates (p-value <0.05). MP ingestion rates peaked at 6.1 mg/kg-Bw/year for ages 1–6, falling to a minimum of 0.5 mg/kg-Bw/year in >20 years age group. Mean inhaled MP weight and count was determined to be 0.2±0.07 mg/kg-Bw/year and 12891±4472 fibres/year. Greatest inhalation intake rates were for the <0.5-yr age group, at 0.31 mg/kg-Bw/year. The study data reveal that MPs are prevalent in Australian homes and that the greatest risk of exposure resides with young children. Notwithstanding the limited number of global studies and the different methods used to measure MPs, this study indicates Australian deposition and inhalation rates are at the lower end of the exposure spectrum.
- Indoor fallout
- Deposition rate