In September 2023, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) introduced ISO 4484-2, which aims to provide information regarding the nature, numerical concentration, surface area and estimated mass of microplastics generated or emitted by the textile industry and subsequently gathered in various matrices.
Microplastics (MPs), tiny plastic particles measuring 100nm ≤ x ≤ 5mm in all sizes, and a length of 300nm ≤ x ≤ 15mm and a length/diameter ration >3 for fibers, have emerged as a significant environmental concern in the textile industry. These tiny particles can originate from various sources, including the breakdown of plastic items, as well as the shedding of synthetic fibers from textiles and textile products. To address this emerging environmental issue, ISO 4484-2 "Textiles and Textile Products — Microplastics from Textile Sources — Part 2: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Microplastics", has been developed.
Textiles continuously release potentially problematic fiber fragments that are shed over the course of their lifecycle, during washing and everyday use. These microfibers are too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment plants. MPs end up in our water systems, posing a threat to marine life and potentially entering the human food chain. Hence, understanding the qualitative and quantitative aspects of microplastics from textile sources becomes crucial to prevent environment damage.
ISO 4484-2 is a newly established standard with the aim of providing information on the nature, numerical concentration, surface area and estimated mass of microplastics originating from the textile sector and gathered from various matrices (powdery solid, aqueous suspension or aeriform), including textile process wastewater, clothing washing water, textile process air emissions and textile process solid waste. The initial step involves the pre-treatment of the test specimen to remove any inorganic and organic components that could potentially interfere with the identification of microplastics. The treated test specimen is transferred to an appropriate filter, enabling subsequent microscopic analysis methods, such as Micro-FTIR or Micro-Raman, for the assessment of both the quality and quantity of microplastics. The method defines microplastics particle number, morphological characteristics, size and dimensional distribution, as well as the fiber content/chemical origin of the polymer. Results are reported in terms of estimated surface area and mass of microplastics per sample.
Conducting qualitative and quantitative analyses of microplastics from textile sources is a vital step in understanding and tackling environmental issues. This new method serves as the foundation for reliable analysis and will promote the advancement of sustainable practices and guide responsible product design in the textile industry. It is a critical first set to collecting valuable data which will be used in the future to support toxicological and environmental impact assessments of textile microplastics when indications become available.
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