Phthalates and Other Plastic Additives in Surface Sediments of the Cross River System, S.E. Niger Delta, Nigeria: Environmental Implication

  •  Orok Oyo-Ita    
  •  Bassey Ekpo    
  •  Inyang Oyo-Ita    
  •  John Offem    


Quantitative determination of phthalates and other plastic additives was carried out using GC-MS in order to understand the distribution and fate of these compounds in surface sediments of the Cross River System. Results show the concentration ranges (mean±standard deviation) of the three phthalates as: di(ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP; 1.97– 86.76 [24.06 ± 29.88 mg/kg dry weight dw]); di(n-butyl)phthalate (DnBP; 0.16 – 17.41 [3.25 ± 5.03 mg/kg dw]); di(isobutyl)phthalate (DiBP; 1.14 – 29.64 [9.82 ± 10.23 mg/kg dw]). However, examination of n-hexane procedural blank (used also in the study for clean-up protocol) GC trace revealed the presence of certain amounts of DEHP and tris-2,6-di(t-butyl)phenylphosphite (PhP) which interfere with the targeted analytes. Therefore, extract/blank (E/B) ratios were calculated and were in the range 1.05 – 12.54, indicating that the concentrations of DEHP and PhP previously assigned to the sediments were partly derived from laboratory artifacts. Differences in grain size distribution, partitioning behavior, volatility and solubility in the aqueous phase as well as localized influx may account for the observed spatial variation of phthalates and other plastic additives in the river system. The primary sources of these phthalates and tris-2,6-di(t-butyl)phenylphosphate (PhP’) were considered to be the result of direct discharge of untreated effluent/solid waste and emission arising from burning of refuse containing plastic materials, respectively. The occurrence of certain anti-oxidant degradation products in sediments (not in the blank) such as 2,6-di(t-butyl)-4-hydroxybenzaldehyde (HBA) and 2,6-di(t-butyl)quinine (Qn) and PhP’ (a compound proposed here as a possible marker for plastic combustion for the region/air basin), suggests that phthalates contamination had occurred before sample contact with laboratory artifacts.

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