Geotextiles: composition, applications and ecotoxicology

B.V. Wiewel, M.H. Lamoree

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Geosynthetics is the umbrella term for thin, flexible material sheets applied in civil and environmental engineering, of which geotextiles form the largest group. Most geotextiles consist of a polymer from the polyolefin, polyester or polyamide family, and additives to improve their stability. The polymer may degrade into microplastic particles over time and under various conditions and can cause adverse effects, as species may ingest these particles or encounter adverse effects due to the interference of the particles with e.g. their photosynthesis system in the case of algae. Leaching of additives may occur from the intact material, as they are often not covalently bound to the polymer backbone, but is greatly enhanced when micro-sized plastic particles have been formed. A total of 42 polymer additives were identified, of which 26 had ecotoxicity information available in terms of a REACH persistence, toxicity and bioaccumulation (PBT) assessment. Of these, 15 were classified as (very) persistent and 2 as toxic. A survey to assess potential toxicity of the remaining 16 substances revealed that no ecotoxicity studies had been performed on 13 of these compounds. For 3 compounds, other toxicity data was found, as well as of several chemical groups known to be used as additives in geotextiles. The current knowledge is thus lacking in two domains: on the one hand, ecotoxicity data is scarce as many substances have not yet been the subject of ecotoxicological studies. On the other hand, in situ toxic effects might be missed by the current approach of single compound toxicity testing. Moreover, environmental occurrence data of the additives are extremely scarce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-655
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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