Back to the Future: Lessons Learned and the Fundamentals of Pyrolysis - Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (PY-GC/MS) for the Analysis of Microplastics in Water Media

Analyzing Microplastics in the Environment: Striving to Better Assess Occurrence, Fate and Effects
Oral Presentation

Prepared by W. Robberson1, A. Cook2, H. Allen3
1 - Ocean P3 Systems, 1230 Clay Street, APT 203, San Francisco, CA, 94108, United States
2 - Ocean P3 Systems, 67 Prospect Rd, Piedmont, California, 94610, United States
3 - U.S. EPA Region 9, 619 Mound, South Pasadena, California, 91030, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 415-307-7720


A huge gap in conducting risk assessments for microplastics in the natural environment or for public health is lack of exposure data, yet that gap will not be filled without standardization of microplastics analysis methods and broad agreement regarding data quality objectives in sampling and analysis. Today there seems an apparent bias towards count-based identification methods which can be extremely costly and time consuming, when we might be better off focusing on simple presence/absence confirmation and larger numbers of samples for more statistically significant exposure results. Py-GC/MS microplastics analysis enables users to achieve polymer identification and mass quantitation directly from water samples with minimal prep and it is not constrained by lower particle size limitations typical with count-based identification methods. This presentation will share the fundamentals of Py-GC/MS for microplastics analysis and lessons learned in development of a standardized Py-GC/MS analysis method.