Microplastics in Water Addressed by New Test Method ASTM D8401

The test is the first standard that will identify plastic in the environment and has applications from public health to water treatment.
ASTM International

ASTM International’s water committee (D19) has approved a new standard that will be used to identify microplastics in environmental water samples.

According to ASTM member and microplastics subcommittee lead William Robberson, P.E., the new test method (D8401) is the first standard that will identify plastic in the environment, and the first that can be used synergistically with other ASTM standards for sample collection and preparation.

“Imagine you’re trying to understand if the water from various sources, such as rivers, lakes, or even your tap water, contains microplastics,” says Robberson. “These microplastics can be harmful to wildlife and potentially humans as well. However, finding and measuring these tiny particles in large volumes of water can be tricky because they’re so small and can easily be confused with other materials.”

According to Robberson, the new standard provides detailed instructions that scientists and environmental experts can follow to consistently identify and measure the amount of microplastics in water samples.

Robberson notes that the new standard will be most useful to anyone who needs to identify the presence and type of microplastics for risk assessment exposure for public health, environmental justice, and protection. However, the standard will also have applications for microplastics researchers, ecologists, regulatory bodies, and water treatment facilities, among others.

This effort directly relates to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6 on clean water and sanitation, as well as #14 on life below water.

UN sustainable development goal 6UN sustainable development goal 14

ASTM welcomes participation in the development of its standards. Become a member at www.astm.org/JOIN. Robberson says that interested parties could join in an interlaboratory study for the standard. Users of the standard could also spread the word regarding their use of it, and laboratories could provide feedback to ASTM’s water committee on their experience using D8401.

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