Abundance and distribution characteristics of microplastics in surface seawaters of the Incheon/Kyeonggi coastal region

Microplastics in marine environments are of emerging concern due to their widespread distribution, their ingestion by various marine organisms, and their roles as a source and transfer vector of toxic chemicals. However, our understanding of their abundance and distribution characteristics in surface seawater (SSW) remains limited. We investigated microplastics in the surface microlayer (SML) and the SSW at 12 stations near-shore and offshore of the Korean west coast, Incheon/Kyeonggi region. Variation between stations, sampling media, and sampling methods were compared based on abundances, size distribution, and composition profiles of microsized synthetic polymer particles. The abundance of microplastics was greater in the SML (152,688 ± 92,384 particles/m3) than in SSW and showed a significant difference based on the sampling method for SSWs collected using a hand net (1602 ± 1274 particles/m3) and a zooplankton trawl net (0.19 ± 0.14 particles/m3). Ship paint particles (mostly alkyd resin polymer) accounted for the majority of microplastics detected in both SML and SSWs, and increased levels were observed around the voyage routes of large vessels. This indicates that polymers with marine-based origins become an important contributor to microplastics in coastal SSWs of this coastal region.

Doo-Hyeon Chae, In-Sung Kim, Seung-Kyu Kim, Young Kyoung Song, Won Joon Shim, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 69 (3):269-278, October 2015

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