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Roxana Suehring and Persistent, Mobile, and Toxic Plastic Additives Research!

Urban Water researcher Roxana Suehring is an environmental chemist leading the Emerging Contaminants Lab at Urban Water TMU. Her research interests include: the fate and transport of organic contaminants, emerging contaminants, long-range chemical transport, high-resolution mass-spectrometry, and plastic contamination in urban water.

Currently, the Emerging Contaminants Lab is studying the use of Persistent, Mobile, and Toxic (PMT) plastic additives, their ability to move in water, and the need for regulation of these chemicals. In Canada, hundreds of these additives can find their way into wastewater streams and are not removed at wastewater treatment plants. The effluent flows into the environment and PMTs can up-concentrate over time, posing a health risk to natural ecosystems and human health.

PMTs are used frequently in single-use plastics and are known to leach out the plastic polymer over time. PMTs are known to have low removal rates from wastewater and can be hazardous to human health as well as to the environment. They can have major adverse health effects on human life, including issues with reproductive health, type II diabetes and insulin resistance, as well as increased risk of asthma and allergies. PMTs are highly polar, exhibit low volatility, and have low potential to absorb into organic matter. Therefore, PMTs are more likely to penetrate groundwater aquifers and threaten the quality of drinking water sources.

The Emerging Contaminants Lab is using mass-spectrometry and laser directed infrared (LDIR) spectroscopy to create new methods for measuring PMTs, to assess how PMTs leach from plastics, and to identify the unique chemical fingerprints of different plastics found in the environment. This work will help identify sources of PMTs in the environment, and will inform the prioritization and regulation of these substances in the future.

To learn more about Roxana and her work please see her Soapbox Science talk in the video linked below. 

And share this website developed by Ocean Diagnostic to educate the public about reducing plastic and its impact on the environment: (external link)