Atmospheric Resuspension of Microplastics from Bare Soil Regions

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Microplastics (MPs) are emerging as an atmospheric pollutant. Here, we present a method of estimating MP resuspension with mineral dust in bare soil based on reported MP mass in soils, their enrichment in suspended dust relative to soil, and a mineral dust resuspension scheme. Using the estimated resuspensions, we simulate the global atmospheric MP transport and deposition using the dispersion model FLEXPART for two particle shape scenarios, spheres, and fibers. We estimate the uncertainties using a Monte Carlo technique that varies input data parameters within their reported ranges. The total MP resuspensions are estimated at about 104 (48–110) tonnes yr–1. We find that bare soils in West Asia and North Africa are the main source regions. FLEXPART results show that fibers have higher concentrations in the atmosphere and are dispersed more widely than spheres. Annually, 75 (43–83) tonnes of microfibers are deposited on land and 29 (18–33) tonnes in the oceans. Resuspended MPs can even reach remote regions, such as the Arctic. The results suggest that areas with bare soils can be an important MP source; however, further research on the factors that affect resuspension is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9741-9749
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 105206 Meteorology


  • plastics
  • mineral dust
  • soil
  • enrichment ratio
  • fiber
  • atmospheric transport

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