Elemental concentrations and bioaccessibilities in beached plastic foam litter, with particular reference to lead in polyurethane

Seventy samples of foamed plastic collected from a high-energy, sandy beach in SW England have been characterised by FTIR and XRF. Most samples were polyurethane (PU; n = 39) or polystyrene (PS; n = 27) that were associated with variable concentrations of Br-Cl, Fe and Zn, indicative of the presence of halogenated flame retardants, iron oxides and Zn-based additives, respectively. Many samples of rigid PU contained Pb, historically used as a catalyst, at concentrations of up to 16,000 μg g− 1. A physiological extraction test that simulates the conditions in the gizzard of plastic-ingesting seabirds was applied to selected samples and results revealed that while Br and Zn were not measurably bioaccessible, Pb mobilisation progressed logarithmically over a period of time with maximum accessibilities after 220 h of ~ 10% of total metal. Foamed PU is a source of bioaccessible Pb in the marine environment that has not previously been documented.

Andrew Turner, Kwan S. Lau, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 112, Issues 1–2, 15 November 2016, Pages 265–270

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