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Leaching of phthalate acid esters from plastic mulch films and their degradation in response to UV irradiation and contrasting soil conditions

Viljoen, S.J., Brailsford, F.L.ORCID: 0000-0002-1088-3527, Murphy, D.V., Hoyle, F.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-6946-918X, Chadwick, D.R. and Jones, D.L. (2023) Leaching of phthalate acid esters from plastic mulch films and their degradation in response to UV irradiation and contrasting soil conditions. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 443 (Pt. B). Art. 130256.

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Abstract

Phthalate acid esters (PAEs) are commonly used plastic additives, not chemically bound to the plastic that migrate into surrounding environments, posing a threat to environmental and human health. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) are two common PAEs found in agricultural soils, where degradation is attributed to microbial decomposition. Yet the impact of the plastic matrix on PAE degradation rates is poorly understood. Using 14C-labelled DBP and DEHP we show that migration from the plastic matrix into soil represents a key rate limiting step in their bioavailability and subsequent degradation. Incorporating PAEs into plastic film decreased their degradation in soil, DBP (DEHP) from 79% to 21% (9% to <1%), over four months when compared to direct application of PAEs. Mimicking surface soil conditions, we demonstrated that exposure to ultraviolet radiation accelerated PAE mineralisation twofold. Turnover of PAE was promoted by the addition of biosolids, while the presence of plants and other organic residues failed to promote degradation. We conclude that PAEs persist in soil for longer than previously thought due to physical trapping within the plastic matrix, suggesting PAEs released from plastics over very long time periods lead to increasing levels of contamination.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems
SoilsWest
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/66505
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