Environmental risks of car tire microplastic particles and other road runoff pollutants

Jacqueline Tamis*, A.A. Koelmans, R. Dröge, Klaas Kaag, M.C. Keur, P.C. Tromp, R.H. Jongbloed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Tire wear represents a large source of microplastic entering the aquatic environment, however little is known about its environmental risks. Here, we provide the first assessment of the environmental risks of pollution with tire wear microplastic particles (TWP) and associated organic micropollutants present in road runoff in Europe, in one go. Besides microplastic TWP, the assessment focused on priority substances as defined by the Water Framework Directive (WFD). In addition, several other pollutants (mercaptobenzothiazole, tolyltriazole, diisodecyl phthalate and hexa (methoxymethyl)melamine) were included. The risk assessment comprised a hazard identification (selection of traffic related substances), an assessment of exposure (Predicted Environmental Concentrations, PECs), based on estimated and measured values, effect assessment (selection of Predicted No Effect Concentrations, PNECs, and effect values) and a risk characterization (PEC/PNEC and Species Sensitivity Distributions (SSDs)). Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET)-tests on samples taken from road runoff, surface water and sediment were conducted as a retrospective approach to support the risk assessment. We demonstrate that risks exist for TWP and for several TWP-associated chemical substances in surface water and sediment. In addition, WET-tests of the runoff samples showed significant dose-related effects for algae. However, WET-tests of surface water showed no significant toxic effects. The present study provides opportunities to protect the quality of European waters from complex road runoff pollution, focusing on TWP microplastic, their associated WFD priority substances and other hazardous substances.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Number of pages17
JournalMicroplastics and Nanoplastics
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2021


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