The complex issue of chemicals and microplastic pollution: A case study in North Pacific lanternfish


• We measured chemical body burden in fish from in and outside the N. Pacific Gyre.

• For some chemicals, there were no differences between fish in and outside the gyre.

• Lower chlorinated PCBs, higher in gyre fish, correlated with higher plastic density.

• DDTs were higher near the U.S. west coast and associated with lower plastic density.

• In this case study, microplastics may be a source of lower chlorinated PCBs.

M. Gassel, C. M. Rochman, Environmental Pollution, Volume 248, May 2019, Pages 1000-1009

The article

Do beachrocks affect microplastic deposition on the strandline of sandy beaches?

The strandline is one of the first deposition habitats of microplastics before they are integrated to the beach as a standing stock or finally removed. Beaches, entirely or partially protected by beachrocks, have different sediment dynamics and therefore may present variation in microplastic deposition. The aim of this work was to test if protected and unprotected (i.e., exposed to waves) areas of a sandy beach present different microplastic accumulation on the strandline – a habitat greatly influenced by both water and sediment dynamics. Microplastic (MP) amounts were significantly higher at the protected area (Mprotected = 642.6 ± 514.8 MP m−2, Mexposed = 130.6 ± 126.8 MP m−2, Mann-Whitney U test, U = 14.5, p = 0.0009), showing that beachrocks influence microplastic accumulation on the beach face. Therefore, hard structures parallel to the beach may also affect microplastics deposition on beach sediments, being important to consider these structures on microplastic surveys.

L. M. Pinheiro, R. C.P. Monteiro, J. A. Ivar do Sul and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 141, April 2019, Pages 569-572

The article

Consistent microplastic ingestion by deep-sea invertebrates over the last four decades (1976–2015), a study from the North East Atlantic

Although evidence suggests the ubiquity of microplastics in the marine environment, our knowledge of its occurrence within remote habitats, such as the deep sea, is scarce. Furthermore, long term investigations of microplastic abundances are even more limited. Here we present a long-term study of the ingestion of microplastics by two deep-sea benthic invertebrates (Ophiomusium lymani and Hymenaster pellucidus) sampled over four decades. Specimens were collected between the years 1976–2015 from a repeat monitoring site >2000 m deep in the Rockall Trough, North East Atlantic. Microplastics were identified at a relatively consistent level throughout and therefore may have been present at this locality prior to 1976. Considering the mass production of plastics began in the 1940s – 50s our data suggest the relatively rapid occurrence of microplastics within the deep sea. Of the individuals examined (n = 153), 45% had ingested microplastics, of which fibres were most prevalent (95%). A total of eight different polymer types were isolated; polyamide and polyester were found in the highest concentrations and in the majority of years, while low-density polystyrene was only identified in 2015. This study provides an assessment of the historic occurrence of microplastics on the deep seafloor and presents a detailed quantification and characterisation of microplastics ingested by benthic species. Furthermore these data advance our knowledge on the long-term fate of microplastic in marine systems.

W. Courtene-Jones, B. Quinn, C. Ewins and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 244, January 2019, Pages 503-512

The article

Is this your glitter? An overlooked but potentially environmentally-valuable microplastic

As microplastic pollution evolved to a well-established research field, microplastic scientists started to explore new avenues in the field. Yet, while a multitude of different types of microplastics (microbeads, fibres, fragments) have been well-documented in microplastic literature, our analysis of this literature shows that glitter particles have been overlooked by the field. However, due to the presence of glitter-based research in forensic science, we explore the idea that glitter may have the potential to act as “flag items” – or markers – of a likely source, due to the often complex and individual composition of glitter particles compared to traditional microplastics, such as microbeads. As such, this article demonstrates glitter has insofar been overlooked as a microplastic particle, and demonstrates that glitter may have an important role in explaining microplastic pollution dynamics from source to sink.

Alexander S. Tagg, Juliana A. Ivar do Sul, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 146, September 2019, Pages 50-53

The article

Stop the flood of plastic. How Mediterranean countries can save their sea

Plastic has become a ubiquitous material in the Mediterranean. It is part of people’s everyday life and it is  a usual presence on its beaches and at sea. Every year,  0.57 million tonnes of plastic enters Mediterranean waters. This is equivalent to dumping 33,800 plastic bottles into the sea every minute. Without action, this number will keep growing as plastic waste generation in the region is expected to quadruple by 2050.

Plastic has negative, and often lethal, effects on marine life. It also disrupts the wealthy Blue Economy of the Mediterranean, and litters its coastlines. Regional economic losses attributed to plastic pollution are estimated at €641 million per year, with tourism being the most a ected sector.

Our analysis shows that in all Mediterranean countries plastic pollution is the result of failures across the entire plastic life cycle, including production, consumption, waste management, and secondary markets for recycled material. Therefore action must be taken at all levels to ensure zero leakage of plastic into nature.

The Mediterranean region is the world’s fourth largest producer of plastic goods, and its residents and visitors generate 24 million tonnes of plastic waste each year. Tourism increases waste by up to one-third during the summertime in some countries, resulting in local waste management facilities being often overwhelmed.

WWF, 2019, the report

The vertical distribution and biological transport of marine microplastics across the epipelagic and mesopelagic water column

Plastic waste has been documented in nearly all types of marine environments and has been found in species spanning all levels of marine food webs. Within these marine environments, deep pelagic waters encompass the largest ecosystems on Earth. We lack a comprehensive understanding of the concentrations, cycling, and fate of plastic waste in sub-surface waters, constraining our ability to implement effective, large-scale policy and conservation strategies. We used remotely operated vehicles and engineered purpose-built samplers to collect and examine the distribution of microplastics in the Monterey Bay pelagic ecosystem at water column depths ranging from 5 to 1000 m. Laser Raman spectroscopy was used to identify microplastic particles collected from throughout the deep pelagic water column, with the highest concentrations present at depths between 200 and 600 m. Examination of two abundant particle feeders in this ecosystem, pelagic red crabs (Pleuroncodes planipes) and giant larvaceans (Bathochordaeus stygius), showed that microplastic particles readily flow from the environment into coupled water column and seafloor food webs. Our findings suggest that one of the largest and currently underappreciated reservoirs of marine microplastics may be contained within the water column and animal communities of the deep sea.

C. Anela Choy, Bruce H. Robison, Tyler O. Gagne, Benjamin Erwin, Evan Firl, Rolf U. Halden, J. Andrew Hamilton, Kakani Katija, Susan E. Lisin, Charles Rolsky & Kyle S. Van Houtan, Scientific Reports, 9, Article number: 7843 (2019)

The article

Human Consumption of Microplastics

Microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems, yet the exposure risk to humans is unresolved. Focusing on the American diet, we evaluated the number of microplastic particles in commonly consumed foods in relation to their recommended daily intake. The potential for microplastic inhalation and how the source of drinking water may affect microplastic consumption were also explored. Our analysis used 402 data points from 26 studies, which represents over 3600 processed samples. Evaluating approximately 15% of Americans’ caloric intake, we estimate that annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74000 and 121000 when inhalation is considered. Additionally, individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90000 microplastics annually, compared to 4000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water. These estimates are subject to large amounts of variation; however, given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates.

Kieran D. Cox, Garth A. Covernton, Hailey L. Davies, John F. Dower, Francis Juanes, Sarah E. Dudas, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2019

The article