Contaminants in the Urban Environment: Microplastics

Figure 1. Various types of microplastics.
Plastic, plastic everywhere! We live in a world where we are surrounded by plastic: from packaging materials and cutlery to plastic appliances and medical devices. Since the mid-twentieth century, plastic has been a boon to humanity and an integral part of our modern lives. However, plastic debris is a major concern due to its abundance and persistence in the environment. Plastic contaminants not only include plastic debris characterized by large size but also small pieces of plastic in the millimeter size range; these inconspicuous “microplastics” have become a major concern because of their widespread presence in different environments and diverse organisms. This six-page fact sheet discusses the sources of microplastics, their effects on the environment, and ways to minimize microplastics pollution and exposure. Written by Yun-Ya Yang, Ignacio A. Rodriquez, Maia McGuire, and Gurpal S. Toor, and published by the Soil and Water Science Department.

Contaminants in the Urban Environment: Bisphenol-A

General structure of bispenol-A
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a man-made chemical widely used as a component in many products of daily use in households, such as plastic bottles and metallic canned foods. BPA can leach from bottles and cans into the environment, increasing our exposure to BPA. BPA is known to harm exposed animals in laboratory settings as well as in the wild, although its potential to harm humans remains controversial. This seven-page fact sheet will discuss the occurrence, use, and potential harmful effects of BPA and will suggest ways to reduce human and environmental exposure to BPA. Written by Ignacio A. Rodriquez-Jorquera, Yun Ya Yang, and Gurpal S. Toor and published by the Soil and Water Science Department.

Contaminants in the Urban Environment: Dioxins

Figure 1. General structure of dioxins and the most toxic dioxin (TCDD)Dioxins are among the most toxic chemicals on the earth. They are by-products of a number of human activities such as combustion of fuels and wastes containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorine bleaching of paper products, and selected industrial processes. Current releases of dioxins by humans are due to the combustion of fuels and burning of household trash. The good news is that levels of dioxins in the environment have decreased in the United States throughout the past 30 years due to the improved emission controls and regulatory activities. But dioxins break down slowly, so they remain in the environment for a long time and accumulate in the food chain. Long-term exposure to dioxins can harm immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, and reproductive functions. This 7-page fact sheet discusses the sources, emission trends, and impacts of dioxins as well as the ways to minimize exposure to dioxins. Written by Yun-Ya Yang and Gurpal S. Toor, and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, July 2015.

Contaminants in the Urban Environment: Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs), Parts 1 and 2

Figure 1. Common pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) in households Credit: iStock/Thinkstock.comPharmaceuticals and personal care products contain a variety of chemical substances that enter household wastewater from bath and shower, sinks, and washers and ultimately find their way into the environment. Continuous discharge of wastewater contributes to the accumulation of these substances in the environment — where they can be harmful to organisms. These fact sheets were written by Yun-Ya Yang and Gurpal S. Toor, and published by the UF Department of Soil and Water Science, March 2015. (Photo: iStock/
Part 1 provides an overview of the use and sale of PPCPs in the United States and the world:
Part 2 discusses the sources and impacts of PPCPs and offers common-sense ways we can protect our environment from PPCPs.