In contact with water, polymeric materials (plastics) release compounds that can support suspended microbial growth and/or biofilm formation. The different methods presently used in the European Union to test plastics take 7-16 weeks to obtain a result. In industry, this delays material and product development as well as quality testing. Therefore, we developed a method package (BioMig) that allows testing of plastic materials with high reproducibility in 2 weeks for their potential biofilm (or biomass) formation and release of carbonaceous migration products when in contact with water. BioMig consists of (i) an extended migration potential test (seven times for 24 h at 60 °C), based on the European norm EN 12873-1 and the German UBA (Umweltbundesamt) guideline, and (ii) a biomass formation potential (BFP) test (14 days at 30 °C), which is a modified version of the Dutch biofilm production potential test. In the migration potential test, the amount of carbon released into water by the specimen is quantified by monitoring total and assimilable organic carbon over time; furthermore, the modular design of the test also allows one to assess additional parameters such as pathogen growth potential on the migration water or toxic effects on microbial growth. Flow cytometry (FCM)-based total cell counting (TCC) is used to quantify microbial growth in suspension and on surfaces after removal with mild sonication without affecting cell integrity. The BFP test allows one to determine both the planktonic (pBFP) and the sessile (sBFP) cell fractions. The sBFP consists of surface-attached cells after removal (>90% efficiency). Results for four standard test materials (PE-Xa, PE-Xc, EPDM 2%, and EPDM 20%), plus positive (PVC-P) and negative (glass) controls are presented. FCM-based TCC demonstrates that the release of growth-supporting carbon and proliferation of surface-attached cells stops increasing and stabilizes after 14 days of incubation; this allows for faster assessment of growth-supporting properties of plastics with BioMig compared to established tests.
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