Hazardous Chemicals in Plastics in Marine Environments: International Pellet Watch

Marine plastic debris, including microplastics <5 mm, contain additives as well as hydrophobic chemicals sorbed from surrounding seawater. A volunteer-based global monitoring programme entitled International Pellet Watch (IPW) is utilizing the sorptive nature of plastics, more specifically of beached polyethylene (PE) pellets, in order to measure persistent organic pollutants (POPs) throughout the world. Spatial patterns of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides have been revealed. Original data of IPW show large piece-to-piece variability in PCB concentrations in pellets collected at each location. This is explained by the combination of slow sorption/desorption and large variabilities of speed and route of floating plastics. The sporadically high concentrations of POPs, both sorbed chemicals and hydrophobic additives, are frequently observed in pellets and the other microplastics in open ocean and remote islands. This poses a chemical threat to marine ecosystems in remote areas.

Rei Yamashita, Kosuke Tanaka, Bee Geok Yeo, Hideshige Takada, Jan A. van Franeker, Megan Dalton, Eric Dale, chapter In: The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry. Springer, pp 1-21,

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Sorption of fluorescent polystyrene microplastic particles to edible seaweed Fucus vesiculosus

Increased global demands for food have raised interest for seaweed as a healthy and sustainable food source. At the same time, the large amounts of microplastic in the oceans have raised concern in relation to pollution of seafood including sea vegetables. The aim of this study was to examine sorption of fluorescent polystyrene (PS) microplastic particles to edible macroalga (seaweed) Fucus vesiculosus, and to investigate to what extent adsorbed PS particles could be washed off, using an industrial relevant method. PS microplastic particles (diameter of 20 μm) were used in a concentration of 2.65 mg L−1 (corresponding to 597 particles per mL) in filtrated seawater (50 mL) to treat F. vesiculosus distal tips in blue cap flasks (100 mL) placed in a rotary box for 2 h. Results showed sorption of PS microplastic particles to F. vesiculosus analysed by microscopy and a significant reduction of 94.5% by washing. These results were based on high microplastic concentrations, not comparable to natural conditions/concentrations. Nonetheless, this study provides methodological and mechanistic insights into procedures for investigating the sorption of microplastics to seaweed, for which there is currently no established standardised method.

Kasper Bjerrum Sundbæk, Ida Due Würtzner Koch, Clara Greve Villaro, Niclas Spangegaard Rasmussen, Susan Løvstad Holdt, Nanna B. Hartmann, 6th Congress of the International Society for Applied Phycology, Journal of Applied Phycology, pp 1–5

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Investigating microplastic trophic transfer in marine top predators

Microplastics are highly bioavailable to marine organisms, either through direct ingestion, or indirectly by trophic transfer from contaminated prey. The latter has been observed for low-trophic level organisms in laboratory conditions, yet empirical evidence in high trophic-level taxa is lacking. In natura studies face difficulties when dealing with contamination and differentiating between directly and indirectly ingested microplastics. The ethical constraints of subjecting large organisms, such as marine mammals, to laboratory investigations hinder the resolution of these limitations. Here, these issues were resolved by analysing sub-samples of scat from captive grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and whole digestive tracts of the wild-caught Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) they are fed upon. An enzymatic digestion protocol was employed to remove excess organic material and facilitate visual detection of synthetic particles without damaging them. Polymer type was confirmed using Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Extensive contamination control measures were implemented throughout. Approximately half of scat subsamples (48%; n = 15) and a third of fish (32%; n = 10) contained 1–4 microplastics. Particles were mainly black, clear, red and blue in colour. Mean lengths were 1.5 mm and 2 mm in scats and fish respectively. Ethylene propylene was the most frequently detected polymer type in both. Our findings suggest trophic transfer represents an indirect, yet potentially major, pathway of microplastic ingestion for any species whose feeding ecology involves the consumption of whole prey, including humans.

S. E. Nelms, T. S. Galloway, B. J. Godley and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 238, July 2018, Pages 999-1007

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Accumulation of polystyrene microplastics in juvenile Eriocheir sinensis and oxidative stress effects in the liver

As a widespread and ubiquitous pollutant of marine ecosystems, microplastic has the potential to become an emerging global threat for aquatic organisms. The present study aims to elucidate the effects of microplastics on the growth, accumulation and oxidative stress response in the liver of Eriocheir sinensis. Fluorescent microplastic particles (diameter = 0.5 μm) accumulated in the gill, liver and gut tissues of E. sinensis were investigated when crabs were exposed to a concentration of 40000 μg/L for 7 days. A 21 day toxicity test suggested that the rate of weight gain, specific growth rate, and hepatosomatic index of E. sinensis decreased with increasing microplastic concentration (0 μg/L, 40 μg/L, 400 μg/L, 4000 μg/L and 40000 μg/L). The activities of AChE and GPT in crabs exposed to microplastics were lower than those in control group. GOT activity increased significantly after exposure to a low concentration of microplastics and then decreased continuously with increasing microplastic concentrations. The activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), aspartate transaminase (GOT), glutathione (GSH), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) increased in specimens exposed to low concentrations of microplastics (40 and 400 μg/L) compared to the control and decreased in organisms exposed to high concentrations (4000 and 40000 μg/L). In contrast, the activities of acetylcholinesterase, catalase (CAT), and alanine aminotransferase were significantly lower in the organisms exposed to microplastics compared to control animals. Upon exposure to increasing microplastic concentrations, the expression of genes encoding the antioxidants SOD, CAT, GPx and glutathione S-transferase in the liver decreased after first increasing. Exposure to microplastics increased the expression of the gene encoding p38 in the MAPK signaling pathway and significantly decreased the expressions of genes encoding ERK, AKT, and MEK. The results of this study demonstrate that microplastics can accumulate in the tissues of E. sinensis and negatively affect growth. In addition, exposure to microplastics causes damage and induces oxidative stress in the hepatopancreas of E. sinensis. The findings provide basic biological data for environmental and human risk assessments of microplastics of high concern.

P. Yu, Z. Liu, D. Wu and al., Aquatic Toxicology, Volume 200, July 2018, Pages 28-36

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Acute sensitivity of three Cladoceran species to different types of microplastics in combination with thermal stress

Microplastics (<5 mm, MP) are ubiquitously distributed in the environment, causing increasing concern regarding their potential toxicity to organisms. To date, most research has focussed on the impacts of MPs on marine and estuarine organisms, with fewer studies focussing on the effects of microplastics on freshwater ecosystems, especially under different environmental conditions. In the present study, the sensitivity of two temperate Cladoceran species, Daphnia magna and Daphnia pulex, and a smaller tropical species Ceriodaphnia dubia, to primary microplastics (PMP) and secondary (weathered) microplastics (SMP) was assessed. A prolonged acute toxicity assay (up to 72 or 96 h) was performed at 18°, 22°, and 26 °C, to determine the influence of temperature as an additional stressor and survival data were analysed using toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic (TK-TD) model. Acute sensitivity of D. magna and D. pulex to both PMP and SMP increased sharply with temperature, whereas that of C. dubia remained relatively stable across temperatures. C. dubia was the most sensitive species at 18 °C, followed by D. pulex and D. magna, which were of comparable sensitivity. However, this ranking was reversed at 26 °C as could be seen from the No Effect Concentration (NEC) estimates of the TK-TD model. In addition, SMP and PMP had a similar effect on D. magna and D. pulex, but PMP was more toxic to C. dubia. Effects on survival were strongly time-dependent and became substantially more severe after the standard 48 h test period. Our results indicate that sensitivity to microplastics may differ between species for different types of microplastics, and could be drastically influenced by temperature albeit at high exposure concentrations.

G. Jaikumar, J. Baas, N. R. Brun and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 239, August 2018, Pages 733-740

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Capture, swallowing, and egestion of microplastics by a planktivorous juvenile fish

Microplastics (<5 mm) have been found in many fish species, from most marine environments. However, the mechanisms underlying microplastic ingestion by fish are still unclear, although they are important to determine the pathway of microplastics along marine food webs. Here we conducted experiments in the laboratory to examine microplastic ingestion (capture and swallowing) and egestion by juveniles of the planktivorous palm ruff, Seriolella violacea (Centrolophidae). As expected, fish captured preferentially black microplastics, similar to food pellets, whereas microplastics of other colours (blue, translucent, and yellow) were mostly co-captured when floating close to food pellets. Microplastics captured without food were almost always spit out, and were only swallowed when they were mixed with food in the fish’s mouth. Food probably produced a ‘gustatory trap’ that impeded the fish to discriminate and reject the microplastics. Most fish (93% of total) egested all the microplastics after 7 days, on average, and 49 days at most, substantially longer than food pellets (<2 days). No acute detrimental effects of microplastics on fish were observable, but potential sublethal effects of microplastics on the fish physiological and behavioural responses still need to be tested. This study highlights that visually-oriented planktivorous fish, many species of which are of commercial value and ecological importance within marine food webs, are susceptible to ingest microplastics resembling or floating close to their planktonic prey.

N. C. Ory, C. Gallardo, M. Lenz, M. Thiel, Environmental Pollution, Volume 240, September 2018, Pages 566-573

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Mussel digestive gland as a model tissue for assessing xenobiotics: An overview

Control strategies and routine biomonitoring programs are commonly performed worldwide using sentinel marine invertebrates, such as mussels of the genus Mytilus, for assessing the “health status” of the aquatic environment. Those species can accumulate and tolerate xenobiotics at levels higher than those being present into the aquatic environment, thus providing accurate and reliable biological endpoints (e.g. physiological, behavioral, cellular, biochemical and molecular indices) that can be measured in their tissues. Taking under consideration the significance of bivalves for assessing the environmental hazard of xenobiotics being present into the water medium, as well as the key role of digestive gland as a target-tissue for the compounds ingested in the organism, the present study aimed to summarize available data on the effects of different categories of xenobiotic compounds, previously characterized as a potential threat for the marine ecosystems. In this context, different types of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), biocides, microplastics (MPs) and nanoparticles (NPs), currently investigated in mussels’ digestive gland, using a battery of experimental approaches and analytical methods, as well as stress indices evaluation, are briefly described and further discussed in order to elucidate not only the presence and the toxic mode of action of xenobiotics, but also the important role of the digestive gland as a reliable target-tissue for investigating the effects of xenobiotics at cellular, biochemical, and molecular levels.

C. Faggio, V. Tsarpali, S. Dailianis, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 636, 15 September 2018, Pages 220-229

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