Apart from the physiological impacts on marine organisms caused by ingesting microplastics, the toxicity caused by substances leaching from these particles into the environment requires investigation. To understand this potential risk, we evaluated the toxicity of virgin (raw) and beach-stranded plastic pellets to the development of embryos of Lytechinus variegatus, simulating transfers of chemical compounds to interstitial water and water column by assays of pellet–water interface and elutriate, respectively. Both assays showed that virgin pellets had toxic effects, increasing anomalous embryonic development by 58.1% and 66.5%, respectively. The toxicity of stranded pellets was lower than virgin pellets, and was observed only for pellet–water interface assay. These results show that (i) plastic pellets act as a vector of pollutants, especially for plastic additives found on virgin particles; and that (ii) the toxicity of leached chemicals from pellets depends on the exposure pathway and on the environmental compartment in which pellets accumulate.
C.R. Nobre, M.F.M. Santana, A. Maluf, F.S. Cortez, A. Cesar, C.D.S. Pereira, A. Turra, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 92 (1-2), pages 99-104, march 2015