Between 60% and 80% of all marine litter is plastic. Leachate from plastics has previously been shown to cause acute toxicity in the freshwater species Daphnia magna. Here, we present an initial screening of the marine environmental hazard properties of leachates from weathering plastics to the marine harpacticoid copepod [Crustacea] Nitocra spinipes. Twenty-one plastic products made of different polymeric materials were leached and irradiated with artificial sunlight. Eight of the twenty-one plastics (38%) produced leachates that caused acute toxicity. Differences in toxicity were seen for different plastic products, and depending on the duration of irradiation. There was no consistent trend in how toxicity of leachate from plastics changed as a function of irradiation time. Leachate from four plastics became significantly more toxic after irradiation, two became significantly less toxic and two did not change significantly. Analysis of leachates from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) by liquid chromatography coupled to a full-scan high-resolution mass spectrometer showed that the leachates were a mixture of substances, but did not show evidence of degradation of the polymer backbone. This screening study demonstrates that leachates from different plastics differ in toxicity to N. spinipes and that the toxicity varies under simulated weathering.
Sofia Bejgarn, Matthew MacLeod, Christian Bogdal and al., Chemosphere, Volume 132, Pages 114–119, August 2015