Nanoparticles made from decomposing plastic can wind up in the land, water, and air.
Although it is unclear how nanoplastics affect human health, research on animals suggests they may be dangerous.
As the project's lead researcher Raz Jelinek, Ph.D. stated, "‘Nanoplastics are a major concern if they’re in the air that you breathe, getting into your lungs and potentially causing health problems, a simple, inexpensive detector like ours could have huge implications, and someday alert people to the presence of nanoplastics in the air, allowing them to take action.’
Each year, millions of tonnes of plastic are created and discarded. Some plastic materials slowly deteriorate during use or after disposal, releasing micro- and nanosized particles into the environment.
Because they are often less than 1 µm broad, nanoplastics are so tiny and light that they can even float in the air, where people may inhale them in.
Particles from a particular plastic type either above or below a predefined concentration threshold because the number of nanoplastics in the air impacts the intensity of the signal created.
Additionally, the sensor's signal intensity was proportional to the size of the aerosolized polystyrene particles in the range of 100, 200, and 300 nm in width.
The team's next step is to test if their method can identify different kinds of plastic in nanoparticle combinations.
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