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Playground found to release microplastic into nearby river

Up to now, there has been uncertainty over whether microplastics from playgrounds is released into watercourses. A detailed study of a school playground in Lomma, Sweden, now clearly shows that microplastic is released into a nearby river. The soft rubber surfacing intended to protect our children is also threatening animal life, both at sea and on land.
microplastics

Rubber-based surfaces are increasingly common. It was previously thought that these surfaces were relatively stable and did not release very much microplastic, but a new study from Lund University in Sweden shows that this is not the case. An investigation revealed that microplastics from a school playground ended up in a nearby river, via surface water pipes.

Microplastics are a problem that has attracted increasing attention. Fish and other animals in our oceans and lakes, as well as land-based organisms, perceive microplastic as food and eat it. This can mean that the animal starves and ingests toxins. A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2016 shows that if we do not do something about this, there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

The new study is a degree project conducted in the Environment and Health Protection programme at Lund University. Jens Andersen Hörman carried out the study.

“It is difficult to tell how extensive the problem is regarding fall protection and multicourts. My assessment is that it’s a not inconsiderable source on a national level. It would have been interesting to quantify the release in a larger context”, he says.

The largest source of microplastic release in Sweden is tyre wear. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has recently identified artificial turf pitches as the country’s second largest source of released microplastics. However, the report contains no information on fall protection and multicourts, as it was not previously known that these surfaces released microplastics, comments Jens Andersen Hörman.

Fall protection and multicourts are often brightly coloured, shock-absorbing surfaces with small rubber granulates, i.e. microplastics, similar to those used on artificial turf pitches. In contrast to the rubber granulates on artificial turf pitches, those used in fall protection and multicourts are moulded together. Despite this, the granulates come loose. No one has previously looked at whether fall protection and multicourts also release microplastics, but Jens Andersen Hörman’s study shows that this is the case.

Link to publication

Lena Björk Blixt

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