Threat of plastic ageing in marine environment. Adsorption/desorption of micropollutants

Ageing of various plastics in marine environment was monitored after immersion of two synthetic (polyvinylchloride, PVC, and polyethylene terephthalate, PET) and one biodegradable (poly(butylene adipate co-terephtalate), PBAT) plastics for 502 days in the bay of Lorient (Brittany, France). Data analysis indicates that aged PVC rapidly releases estrogenic compounds in seawater with a later adsorption of heavy metals; PET undergoes a low weakening of the surface whereas no estrogenic activity is detected; PBAT ages faster in marine environment than PVC. Aged PBAT exhibits heterogeneous surface with some cavities likely containing clay minerals from the chlorite group. Besides, this degraded material occasionally shows a high estrogenic activity. Overall, this study reports, for the first time, that some aged plastics, without being cytotoxic, can release estrogenic compounds in marine environment.

Mikaël Kedzierski, Mélanie D’Almeida, Anthony Magueresse and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 127, February 2018, Pages 684-694

The article


Adsorption of perfluoroalkyl substances on microplastics under environmental conditions

Plastic debris has become an environmental problem during recent years. Among the plastic debris, microplastics (<5 mm; MPLs) imply an extra problem due to their capacity to enter into the fauna through ingestion. In this work, we study the capacity of three MPLs, that include high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polystyrene (PS) and polystyrene carboxylate (PS-COOH), to sorb 18 perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs; including carboxylic acids, sulphonates and one sulphonamide) from the surrounding waters (freshwater and seawater).

Conclusions drawn from the results are that perfluoro sulphonates and sulphonamides have more tendency to be sorbed onto MPLs. In addition, PS and PS-COOH have more affinity for PFASs than HDPE. Finally, the increment of conductivity and pH of the water decreases the exposure time that is necessary to reach equilibrium. However, the presence of salts decreases the tendency of PFASs to be sorbed onto plastic surfaces. These results highlight the problem associated with the presence of MPLs in inland and marine waters since toxic compounds can be sorbed onto surrounding plastics that could be ingested by aquatic fauna.

Marta Llorca, Gabriella Schirinzi, Mònica Martínez and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 235, April 2018, Pages 680–691

The article

Ingestion of microplastics and natural fibres in Sardina pilchardus (Walbaum, 1792) and Engraulis encrasicolus (Linnaeus, 1758) along the Spanish Mediterranean coast

The ingestion of microplastics and natural fibres (<5 mm) was assessed for two commercial fish species in the western Mediterranean Sea: Sardina pilchardus and Engraulis encrasicolus. Gastrointestinal tracts from 210 individuals from 14 stations were examined with 14.28–15.24% of the small pelagic fish S. pilchardus and E. encrasicolus having ingested microplastics and natural fibres. A latitudinal increase in condition index (Fulton’s K) of S. pilchardus gave an indication that larger individuals with better physical condition are less likely to ingest microplastics and natural fibres. Fibres were the most frequent particle type (83%) and Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) analysis indicated polyethylene terephthalate was the most common microplastics material (30%). Results from this study show that both microplastics and natural fibres of anthropogenic origin are common throughout the pelagic environment along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

M. Compa, A. Ventero, M. Iglesias and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 128, March 2018, Pages 89–96

The article

Artificial polymer materials debris characteristics along the Moroccan Mediterranean coast

A monitoring program was carried out in autumn 2015 along the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, at sites including urban, village and remote/rural beaches. Artificial Polymer Materials (APM) represented 70.64% of all collected items and included plastic (16 categories), foamed plastic (3) and other APM materials (2). Plastic items represented the dominant debris with 5356 items, i.e. 94.53% of all APM debris, foamed plastics presented 191 items (i.e. 3.37%) and other APM summed 119 items, i.e. 2.1% of all APM. Urban areas presented 49.63% of all APM recollected items with cigarette butts representing 32% of total APM items. Village areas presented 40.43% of total APM recollected items with cigarette butts representing 14.1%. Remote and rural beaches recorded 9.94% of total APM items and no cigarette butts were observed. Despite the efforts of local administrations, which introduced litter bins and enforced mechanical and manual cleaning operations, debris were essentially related to beachgoers.

F. Maziane, D. Nachite, G. Anfuso, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 128, March 2018, Pages 1–7

The article

Combined effects of microplastics and chemical contaminants on the organ toxicity of zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Microplastics contamination of the aquatic environment is considered a growing problem. The ingestion of microplastics has been documented for a variety of aquatic animals. Studies have shown the potential of microplastics to affect the bioavailability and uptake route of sorbed co-contaminants of different nature in living organisms. Persistent organic pollutants and metals have been the co-contaminants majorly investigated in this field. The combined effect of microplastics and sorbed co-contaminants in aquatic organisms still needs to be properly understood. To address this, we have subjected zebrafish to four different feeds: A) untreated feed; B) feed supplemented with microplastics (LD-PE 125–250 µm of diameter); C) feed supplemented with 2% microplastics to which a mixture of PCBs, BFRs, PFCs and methylmercury were sorbed; and D) feed supplemented with the mixture of contaminants only. After 3 weeks of exposure fish were dissected and liver, intestine, muscular tissue and brain were extracted. After visual observation, evaluation of differential gene expression of some selected biomarker genes in liver, intestine and brain were carried out. Additionally, quantification of perfluorinated compounds in liver, brain, muscular tissue and intestine of some selected samples were performed. The feed supplemented with microplastics with sorbed contaminants produced the most evident effects especially on the liver. The results indicate that microplastics alone does not produce relevant effects on zebrafish in the experimental conditions tested; on the contrary, the combined effect of microplastics and sorbed contaminants altered significantly their organs homeostasis in a greater manner than the contaminants alone.

Sandra Rainieri, Nadia Conlledo, Bodil K. Larsen, Kit Granby, Alejandro Barranco, Environmental Research, Volume 162, April 2018, Pages 135-143

The article

Plastic found in mussels from Arctic to China – enters human food

Tiny bits of plastic are contaminating mussels from the European Arctic to China in a sign of the global spread of ocean pollution that can end up on people’s dinner plates.

Mussels in apparently pristine Arctic waters had most plastic of any tested along the Norwegian coast, according to a study this month by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).

Plastics may be getting swept north by ocean currents and winds from Europe and America, ending up swirling around the Arctic Ocean, NIVA researcher Amy Lusher told Reuters.

“Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked,” she said.

Past surveys have found microplastics off nations including China, Chile, Canada, Britain and Belgium. Off Norway, the molluscs contained on average 1.8 bits of microplastic – defined as smaller than 5 mm long (0.2 inch) – with 4.3 in the Arctic. (…) (, 20/12/2017)

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Microplastics contamination in molluscs from the northern part of the Persian Gulf

Microplastics (MPs) are well-known emerging contaminants in the marine environment. A key route by which MPs can directly affect marine life is through ingestion. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the occurrence of MPs in marine life and seafood for human consumption in the Persian Gulf. We conducted a whole body analysis of MP (between 10 and 5000 μm in diameter) abundance in five species of molluscs with different feeding strategies, including both gastropods and bivalves from the littoral zone of the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf. The mean number of total encountered MPs in all species ranged from 0.2 to 21.0 particles per g of soft tissue (wet weight) and from 3.7 to 17.7 particles per individual. Overall, microfibres followed by fragments were the most common type of MP isolated in each species (respectively > 50% and ≈26%). Film (≈14%) and pellets (≈2%) were less commonly observed. The observed MPs were classified into three size groups (ca. 10–25 μm, 25–250 μm and 250–5000 μm), and 37–58% of MPs fell into the smallest size group. Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) analysis confirmed the presence of polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and nylon (PA). Our results indicated that molluscan shellfish from the Persian Gulf contain MPs, with higher concentrations in a predatory species, suggesting trophic transfer of MPs in the food web. The consumption of edible species may be a source of human microplastic intake. We compared our results with those previously reported for other regions of the world and identified the need for further studies in the Persian Gulf.

Abolfazl Naji, Marzieh Nuri, A. Dick Vethaak, Environmental Pollution, Volume 235, April 2018, Pages 113–120

The article