The use of potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution as a suitable approach to isolate plastics ingested by marine organisms

In studies of plastic ingestion by marine wildlife, visual separation of plastic particles from gastrointestinal tracts or their dietary content can be challenging. Earlier studies have used solutions to dissolve organic materials leaving synthetic particles unaffected. However, insufficient tests have been conducted to ensure that different categories of consumer products partly degraded in the environment and/or in gastrointestinal tracts were not affected. In this study 63 synthetic materials and 11 other dietary items and non-plastic marine debris were tested. Irrespective of shape or preceding environmental history, most polymers resisted potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution, with the exceptions of cellulose acetate from cigarette filters, some biodegradable plastics and a single polyethylene sheet. Exposure of hard diet components and other marine debris showed variable results. In conclusion, the results confirm that usage of KOH solutions can be a useful approach in general quantitative studies of plastic ingestion by marine wildlife.

Susanne Kühn, Bernike van Werven, Albert van Oyen, André Meijboom, Elisa L. Bravo Rebolledo, Jan A. van Franeker, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 115, Issues 1–2, 15 February 2017, Pages 86–90

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