Atmospheric microplastic fallout in outdoor and indoor environments in São Paulo megacity

Sci Total Environ. 2022 May 15:821:153450. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153450. Epub 2022 Jan 29.


Plastics are widely used by society, and their degradation into millimetre fragments, called microplastics (MPs), has become a global environmental threat to ecosystems and human health. However, airborne MPs' presence and fallout fluxes from the atmosphere are poorly understood and can vary significantly by different conditions, especially in megacities of low- and middle-income countries, where high levels of vehicular air pollution, a high-density population, high plastic use, and inadequate disposal are environmental threats related to airborne MPs. In this study, we investigate the amount, chemical composition, and morphological characteristics of outdoor and indoor airborne MPs fallout in the megacity of São Paulo and assess the influence of weather and seasons on airborne MPs fallout. The results were as follows: MPs were found in all samples with an average fallout rate of 309.40 ± 214.71 MPs/m2/day in the indoor environment, and 123.20 ± 47.09 MPs/m2/day in the outdoor environment; MPs concentrations were higher in the indoor environment than the outdoor environment, with more fibres than particles; polyester fibres (100%), polyethylene (59%) and polypropylene (26%) particles were the dominant polymers indoors, while in outdoors, polyester fibres (76%) and polyethylene (67%) and polyethylene terephthalate (25%) particles were dominant. Fragment was the dominant morphology of particles found in indoor and outdoor samples (64% and 74%, respectively). Outdoor MPs fallout correlated positively with rainfall, wind velocity, and relative humidity. This evidence is the first on airborne MPs in a Latin America megacity and highlights the relevant role that this source plays in different environments.

Keywords: Airborne microplastic; Ambient air; Fibres; Fragments; Indoor fallout; Outdoor fallout.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / analysis
  • Brazil
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Microplastics*
  • Plastics


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics