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The Ubiquitous Nanoplastic Particles Damage Growth and Health of Plants According to Scientists

published: 2020-07-09 18:30

White pollution derived from plastics is seen all over the world, where nanoplastics can even be found on uninhabited islands, so how would they impact the environment? Scientists have recently discovered that nanoplastic particles will reduce the biomass of plants, in other words, hinder the growth of plants.

As the name suggests, nanoplastics refer to miniature plastic fragments that are roughly 5mm, and are elements that cannot be neglected in environmental pollution, as these nanoplastic particles derived from the weather, fluttering from the ocean, and fragments of large plastic containers, are harder to track and pick up compared to pet bottles and plastic bags, which creates difficulty in hosting beach cleanup activities targeted at these particles.

In order to further understand the environmental impact from these nanoplastics, the University of Massachusetts Amherst had joined hands with the research team at the Northeastern University and begun studying how nanoplastics would affect the environment, soil, and agricultural production by focusing on 100nm nanoplastics, which also alter the chemical properties of plastic, including possible positive charge or negative charge on the surface, during the degradation process  

The research team begun studying on the impact of nanoplastics on the health of plants, and selected arabidopsis thaliana, the model organism of plantae, as the study subject. Scientists have planted this endorser of the plantae that grows rapidly and can be mass obtained in the soil that is mixed with nanoplastics of positive and negative charges, as well as colored the plastic fragments to facilitate observation on the growth and absorption progress of the plant within 7 weeks, before identifying if there are differences in the weight, length, root system, and the chlorophyll content.

 (Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst)

As depicted from the above photo, the fragments of nanoplastic are situated at the bottom, and scientists have discovered that the root and the root hair of arabidopsis thaliana are able to absorb nanoplastics and reduce the total biomass of plants. Baoshan Xing, Professor of Environment and Soil Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, commented that the research team had realized a shorted root system for the arabidopsis thaliana, and the reduction of biomass will impact the production volume and the nutritional values of crops.

The research team also found that nanoplastics with positive charge create bigger harm to plants, and although the reason behind it is yet to be explored, it may have something to do with how nanoplastics with positive charge are able to generate interaction with water, nutrients, and the root of plants, and triggers various gene expression, which requires further study in crops. Thus the actual impact of nanoplastics on crops and production volume remains undefined.

As pointed out by the study of the research team, arabidopsis thaliana absorbs and transmits 200nm or smaller nanoplastics with both positive and negative surface charges. For another round of experiment, the research team planted seedlings within soil of abundant nanoplastics in order to study the condition of root sensitivity, and discovered that the growth of the seedlings was hindered once again after 10 days compared with the control group, indicating the relevant hazard of plastics on the growth of plants.

 (Cover photo source: pixabay)

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