Study: Microplastic Paint Abundant in Ocean


A study conducted by the University of Plymouth and the Marine Biological Association (MBA) observed that paint flakes could be one of the most abundant types of microplastic particles found in the ocean.

The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, collected 3,600 samples from the North Atlantic Ocean. Each cubic meter of seawater reportedly contained an average of 0.01 paint flakes, following behind 0.16 particles per cubic meter of microplastic fibers.

“Paint particles have often been an overlooked component of marine microplastics, but this study shows that they are relatively abundant in the ocean. The presence of toxic metals like lead and copper pose additional risks to wildlife,” said Andrew Turner, the study’s lead author and associate professor in environmental sciences at the University of Plymouth, in an interview.

These paint flakes also contained high quantities of lead, iron and copper due to having anti-fouling or anti-corrosive properties. Researchers explained that this could pose a threat to the ocean and marine life if ingested.

Additional research findings included:

  • Microplastics have been identified in plankton trawls of the North Atlantic;
  • About 17% of microplastics were non-fibrous, and of these, the majority were paint flakes; and
  • XRF analysis revealed a variety of Cu-based antifouling formulations and Pb-based paints.

The entire study can be viewed here.

Flaking Paint and Containment Practices

In 2016, concerns about chipping lead paint were voiced over paint coming off a New York City overpass. Lead-based paint was said to be peeling off of the structure and into areas along the waterfront where seniors and children congregate, neighborhood news source DNA info reported.

Lead poisoning of infants and children can cause lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity and behavior problems, according to the EPA. Overexposure to lead in adults is reported to lead to brain damage, as well as gastrointestinal effects, anemia and kidney disease.

In a 2017 interview with PaintSquare Daily News, supervisor of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Air Compliance Unit Cory Boeck explained the importance of containment, determining hazardous materials and the correct type of containment.

“Proper containment is also important,” Boeck said at the time. “Cleanup is easier and it greatly minimizes citizen complaints. That is why, on the front end, it’s important that before the job starts, that it gets evaluated first.”

Most recently, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency announced plans in September to better protect public health and the environment through regulation of wastewater pollution.

According to the EPA, the decision to initiate the three new rulemakings arrives after concluding several studies previously discussed in its Effluent Guidelines Program Plan 14. The agency has determined that revised effluent limitations guidelines (ELGs) and pretreatment standards are warranted for:

  • Organic Chemicals, Plastics and Synthetic Fibers category to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) discharges from facilities manufacturing PFAS;
  • Metal Finishing category to address PFAS discharges from chromium electroplating facilities; and
  • Meat and Poultry Products category to address nutrient discharges.

The Preliminary Plan 15 also discussed the Steam Electric Power Generating category rulemaking the agency previously announced on July 26. The EPA has initiated that rulemaking process to consider strengthening the effluent limits applicable to certain ELG waste streams from coal power plants that use steam to generate electricity.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Containment; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Flaking; Latin America; Lead; North America; Research; Z-Continents

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