Toy building bricks as a potential source of microplastics and nanoplastics

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Scientists find that interlocking and dismantling popular plastic toy building bricks generate microplastics and nanoplastics. These plastic fragments may pose a health risk to children who play with the bricks.

Abstract: Microplastics and nanoplastics have become noteworthy contaminants, affecting not only outdoor ecosystems but also making a notable impact within indoor environments. The release of microplastics and nanoplastics from commonly used plastic items remains a concern, and the characterisation of these contaminants is still challenging. This study focused on evaluating the microplastics and nanoplastics produced from plastic building bricks. Using Raman spectroscopy and correlation analysis, the plastic material used to manufacture building blocks was determined to be either acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (correlation value of 0.77) or polycarbonate (correlation value of 0.96). A principal component analysis (PCA) algorithm was optimised for improved detection of the debris particles released. Some challenges in microplastic analysis, such as the interference from the colourants in the building block materials, was explored and discussed. Combining Raman results with scanning electron microscopy – energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, we found the scratches on the building blocks to be a significant source of contamination, estimated several thousand microplastics and several hundred thousand nanoplastics were generated per mm2 following simulated play activities. The potential exposure to microplastics and nanoplastics during play poses risks associated with the ingestion and inhalation of these minute plastic particles.

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