Littered plastic is one of the most conspicuous environmental pollution problems and is present in one form or another globally. In addition to the obvious aesthetic impacts of littering, the effects to organisms through entanglement and ingestion have been studied extensively (Gregory 2009). However, as plastic waste abrades, it disintegrates into smaller plastic fragments commonly termed “microplastics” (MPs) that are potentially more readily bioavailable (Lambert et al. 2014) (Figure 1).
MPs, particularly polyethylene, are also known to effectively sorb organic contaminants from surrounding waters, and internalized MPs might 1) lead to the direct physical injury of an organism, and 2) provide a vector for the transfer of sorbed co-occurring chemical compounds through the ingestion of contaminant-loaded MPs (Lambert et al. 2014; Wagner et al. 2014). Current investigations into the impacts of MPs have largely focused on the marine environment; scientific knowledge on the effects of MPs in freshwater ecosystems is lacking (Wagner et al. 2014). (…)
Scott Lambert and Martin Wagner, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Volume 12, Issue 2, pages 404–405, April 2016