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Plastic in agricultural soils – A global risk for groundwater systems and drinking water supplies? – A review

Author: Philipp Wanner

Abstract: The global plastic contamination is one of the major challenges facing mankind as plastic is ubiquitously present in all environmental compartments. In contrast to freshwater and marine environments, plastic contamination of agricultural soils was only recently subject to investigations although it represents a significant amount (14%) of the global plastic pollution. Of concern is the vertical migration of plastic particles in agricultural soils and plastic-induced enhancement of pesticide transport towards underlying groundwater systems. To assess the risk of the large plastic inventory in agricultural soils for groundwater systems and drinking water supplies, this review critically synthesizes the current knowledge of the plastic mobility and plastic-pesticide interactions in agricultural soils, identifies future research directions and evaluates associated analytical challenges. The reviewed studies provide consistent evidence for vertical migration of plastic in agricultural soils towards aquifer systems, especially for sub-micrometer sized plastic particles, analogously to the well-known migration of natural particles in the sub-micrometer range (colloids). The reviewed investigations also showed that plastic changes the sorption behavior of pesticides in agricultural soils and enhances their transport towards underlying groundwater systems. Hence, the deposited plastic in agricultural soils likely poses a major risk for underlying aquifers and drinking water supplies that rely on groundwater resources below farmlands to be contaminated by plastic and pesticides. This demonstrates that improved regulatory measures are necessary regarding the general usage of plastic in the farming process to protect aquifers and drinking water supplies from plastic and pesticide contamination and to avoid a potential human health hazard.

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Keywords: Plastic particle mobility, Enhanced pesticide transport, Agricultural soils, Groundwater contamination, Human health hazard
Published in: Chemosphere Volume 264, Part 1, February 2021, 128453

Please find the full article here.

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