Due to the risk of external contamination, fibers were excluded from the first microplastic surveys of the ocean. Nowadays, they have become the focus of attention and they are reported as the most common type of anthropogenic particle, from subsurface waters to deep-sea sediments and even in marine organisms. This is unsurprising, considering the rapid increase in global fiber production. It’s noteworthy that most of the fibers identified in the ocean are not plastic, but chemically modified cellulose, which has sparked a debate in literature regarding the need for a common analytical methodology.
Additionally, the origin of fiber pollution is under investigation: while textile washing has been identified as the major source, research is underway to identify the key factors that contribute to fiber release from textiles. Finally, the negative effects of fibers and associated contaminants on marine organisms have been less studied than those associated with spherical and fragmented particles. Given the higher proportion of fibers in the marine environment, this is a significant knowledge gap. The presentation will address the current challenges in detecting microfibers and associated contaminants, recent research findings on their fate and interaction with marine organisms, and possible bioinspired solutions.
About Francesco Saliu
Francesco Saliu, PhD, currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Chemistry at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy. His research work is primarily focused on studying environmental pollution and exploring green technologies for a more sustainable future. He is currently collaborating with various international institutions on research projects that involve the use of advanced spectrometric techniques to study the degradation of plastic materials, detect microplastic, nanoplastic and plastic-associated contaminants in different environmental compartments, and identify the impacts of plastic contamination on marine life and biogeochemical cycles.