Impact of microplastic beads and fibers on waterflea (Ceriodaphnia dubia) survival, growth, and reproduction: implications of single and mixture exposures

There is limited knowledge regarding the adverse effects of wastewater-derived microplastics, particularly fibers, on aquatic biota. In this study, we examined the acute (48 h) and chronic (8 d) effects of microplastic polyester fibers and polyethylene (PE) beads on freshwater zooplankton Ceriodaphnia dubia. We also assessed the acute response of C. dubia to a binary mixture of microplastic beads and fibers for the first time. Acute exposure to fibers and PE beads both showed a dose-dependent effect on survival. An equitoxic binary mixture of beads and fibers resulted in a toxic unit of 1.85 indicating less than additive effects. Chronic exposure to lower concentrations did not significantly affect survival of C. dubia, but a dose-dependent effect on growth and reproduction was observed. Fibers showed greater adverse effects than PE beads. While ingestion of fibers was not observed, scanning electron microscopy showed carapace and antenna deformities after exposure to fibers, with no deformities observed after exposure to PE beads. While much of the current research has focused on microplastic beads, our study shows that microplastic fibers pose a greater risk to C. dubia, with reduced reproductive output observed at concentrations within an order of magnitude of reported environmental levels.

Shima Ziajahromi, Anupama Kumar, Peta A. Neale, and Frederic D. L. Leusch, Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, October 23, 2017

Are we underestimating microplastic contamination in aquatic environments?

Plastic debris, specifically microplastic in the aquatic environment, is an escalating environmental crisis. Efforts at national scales to reduce or ban microplastics in personal care products are starting to pay off, but this will not affect those materials already in the environment or those that result from unregulated products and materials. To better inform future microplastic research and mitigation efforts this study (1) evaluates methods currently used to quantify microplastics in the environment and (2) characterizes the concentration and size distribution of microplastics in a variety of products. In this study, 50 published aquatic surveys were reviewed and they demonstrated that most (~80%) only account for plastics ≥ 300 μm in diameter. In addition, we surveyed 770 personal care products to determine the occurrence, concentration and size distribution of polyethylene microbeads. Particle concentrations ranged from 1.9 to 71.9 mg g−1 of product or 1649 to 31,266 particles g−1 of product. The large majority ( > 95%) of particles in products surveyed were less than the 300 μm minimum diameter, indicating that previous environmental surveys could be underestimating microplastic contamination. To account for smaller particles as well as microfibers from synthetic textiles, we strongly recommend that future surveys consider methods that materials < 300 μm in diameter.

Jeremy L. Conkle, Christian D. Báez Del Valle, Jeffrey W. Turner, Environmental Management, pp 1–8,

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Ingestion of microplastics by freshwater Tubifex worms

Microplastic contamination of the aquatic environment is a global issue. Microplastics can be ingested by organisms leading to negative physiological impacts. The ingestion of microplastics by freshwater invertebrates has not been reported outside the laboratory. Here we demonstrate the ingestion of microplastic particles by Tubifex tubifex in a major urban waterbody fed by the River Irwell, Manchester, UK. The host sediments had microplastic concentrations ranging from 56 to 2544 particles kg-1. 87% of the Tubifex ingested microplastic particles were microfibres (55 – 4100 µm in length), whilst the remaining 13% were fragments (50 – 4500 µm in length). FT-IR analysis revealed ingestion of a range of polymers, including polyethylene terephthalate (polyester) and acrylic fibres. Whilst microbeads were present in the host sediment matrix, they were not detected in Tubifex worm tissue. However, there was limited selectivity in the ingestion of microplastics within the fragment or fiber subtypes. The mean concentration of ingested microplastics was 129 ± 65.4 particles g-1 tissue. We also show that Tubifex worms retain microplastics longer than other components of the ingested sediment matrix. Microplastic ingestion by Tubifex worms poses a significant risk for trophic transfer and biomagnification of microplastics up the aquatic food chain.

Rachel R Hurley, Jamie C Woodward, and James J. Rothwell, Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript, October 11, 2017

Mixture toxicity of nickel and microplastics with different functional groups on Daphnia magna

In recent years, discarded plastic has become an increasingly prevalent pollutant in aquatic ecosystems. These plastic wastes decompose into microplastics, which not only pose a direct threat to aquatic organisms but also an indirect threat via adsorption of other aquatic pollutants. In this study, we investigated the toxicities of variable and fixed combinations of two types of microplastics [one coated with a carboxyl group (PS-COOH) and the other lacking this functional group (PS)] with the heavy metal nickel (Ni) on Daphnia magna and calculated mixture toxicity using a toxic unit model. We found that toxicity of Ni in combination with either of the two microplastics differed from that of Ni alone. Furthermore, in general, we observed that immobilization of D. magna exposed to Ni combined with PS-COOH was higher than that of D. magna exposed to Ni combined with PS. Collectively, the results of our study indicate that the toxic effects of microplastics and pollutants may vary depending on the specific properties of the pollutant and microplastic functional groups, and further research on the mixture toxicity of various combinations of microplastics and pollutants is warranted.

Dokyung Kim, Yooeun Chae, and Youn-Joo An, Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript, October 11, 2017

Risks of Plastic Debris: Unravelling Fact, Opinion, Perception, and Belief

Researcher and media alarms have caused plastic debris to be perceived as a major threat to humans and animals. However, although the waste of plastic in the environment is clearly undesirable for aesthetic and economic reasons, the actual environmental risks of different plastics and their associated chemicals remain largely unknown. Here we show how a systematic assessment of adverse outcome pathways based on ecologically relevant metrics for exposure and effect can bring risk assessment within reach. Results of such an assessment will help to respond to the current public worry in a balanced way and allow policy makers to take measures for scientifically sound reasons.

Albert A. Koelmans, Ellen Besseling, Edwin Foekema and al., Environ. Sci. Technol., Volume 51, Issue 20, Page 11513-11519, October 17, 2017

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Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine ecosystem and human health: a short review

Human populations are using oceans as their household dustbins, and microplastic is one of the components which are not only polluting shorelines but also freshwater bodies globally. Microplastics are generally referred to particles with a size lower than 5 mm. These microplastics are tiny plastic granules and used as scrubbers in cosmetics, hand cleansers, air-blasting. These contaminants are omnipresent within almost all marine environments at present. The durability of plastics makes it highly resistant to degradation and through indiscriminate disposal they enter in the aquatic environment. Today, it is an issue of increasing scientific concern because these microparticles due to their small size are easily accessible to a wide range of aquatic organisms and ultimately transferred along food web. The chronic biological effects in marine organisms results due to accumulation of microplastics in their cells and tissues. The potential hazardous effects on humans by alternate ingestion of microparticles can cause alteration in chromosomes which lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. Because of the recent threat of microplastics to marine biota as well as on human health, it is important to control excessive use of plastic additives and to introduce certain legislations and policies to regulate the sources of plastic litter. By setup various plastic recycling process or promoting plastic awareness programmes through different social and information media, we will be able to clean our sea dustbin in future.

Shivika Sharma, Subhankar Chatterjee, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, , Volume 24, Issue 27, pp 21530–21547

The article

Microplastics releasing from personal care and cosmetic products in China

Microplastics (MPs) have become a major global issue; their release from various products affects the aquatic environment, especially marine ecosystems. As a primary source of MPs, personal care and cosmetics products (PCCPs) containing MPs contribute to this environmental risk. We visited several supermarket chains in Beijing, China to identify PCCPs containing MPs. Overall, 7.1% of facial cleansers contained MPs, with an average weight of 25.04 ± 10.69 mg MP/g and average size of 313 ± 130 μm; whereas, 2.2% of shower gel products contained an average weight of 17.80 ± 7.50 mg MPs/g with an average size of 422 ± 185 μm. The majority of MPs were made of polyethylene, based on Raman and Fourier transform-infrared spectra analyses, while only a few were made of walnut shells and carbon particles. Finally, estimated 39 tons MPs were released into the environment based on PCCPs use in China based on available data.

Kun Lei, Fei Qiao, Qing Liu and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 11 September 2017, In Press

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