Perfluoroalkylated substances (Pfas) associated with microplastics in a lake environment

John W. Scott, Kathryn G. Gunderson, Lee A. Green, Richard R. Rediske, Alan D. Steinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of both microplastics and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is ubiquitous in the environment. The ecological impacts associated with their presence are still poorly understood, however, these contaminants are extremely persistent. Although plastic in the environment can concentrate pollutants, factors such as the type of plastic and duration of environmental exposure as it relates to the degree of adsorption have received far less attention. To address these knowledge gaps, experiments were carried out that examined the interactions of PFAS and microplastics in the field and in a controlled environment. For field experiments, we measured the abundance of PFAS on different polymer types of microplastics that were deployed in a lake for 1 month and 3 months. Based on these results, a controlled experiment was conducted to assess the adsorption properties of microplastics in the absence of associated inorganic and organic matter. The adsorption of PFAS was much greater on the field-incubated plastic than what was observed in the laboratory with plastic and water alone, 24 to 259 times versus one-seventh to one-fourth times background levels. These results suggest that adsorption of PFAS by microplastics is greatly enhanced by the presence of inorganic and/or organic matter associated with these materials in the environment, and could present an environmental hazard for aquatic biota.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Microplastics
  • Muskegon Lake
  • Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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