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Degradation of Polyvinyl Alcohol in US Wastewater Treatment Plants and Subsequent Nationwide Emission Estimate

  • varun kelkar, charles rolsky;
Publication Date
Jun 03, 2021
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18116027
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Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is a water-soluble plastic commercially used in laundry and dish detergent pods (LDPs) for which a complete understanding of its fate in the environment and subsequent consequences is lacking. The objective of this study was to estimate the US nationwide emissions of PVA resulting from domestic use of LDPs, corroborated by a nationwide, online consumer survey and a literature review of its fate within conventional wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Peer-reviewed publications focusing on the degradation of PVA in critical processes of WWTPs were shortlisted as a part of the literature review, and subsequent degradation data was extracted and applied to a model with a set of assumptions. Survey and model results estimated that approximately 17,200 ± 5000 metric ton units per year (mtu/yr) of PVA are used from LDPs in the US, with 10,500 ± 3000 mtu/yr reaching WWTPs. Literature review data, when incorporated into our model, resulted in ~61% of PVA ending up in the environment via the sludge route and ~15.7% via the aqueous phase. PVA presence in the environment, regardless of its matrix, is a threat to the ecosystem due to the potential mobilization of heavy metals and other hydrophilic contaminants.

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