The occurrence of microplastic contamination in littoral sediments of the Persian Gulf, Iran

Microplastics (MPs; <5 mm) in aquatic environments are an emerging contaminant of concern due to their possible ecological and biological consequences. This study addresses that MP quantification and morphology to assess the abundance, distribution, and polymer types in littoral surface sediments of the Persian Gulf were performed. A two-step method, with precautions taken to avoid possible airborne contamination, was applied to extract MPs from sediments collected at five sites during low tide. MPs were found in 80% of the samples. Across all sites, fiber particles were the most dominate shape (88%), followed by films (11.2%) and fragments (0.8%). There were significant differences in MP particle concentration between sampling sites (p value <0.05). The sediments with the highest numbers of MPs were from sites in the vicinity of highly populated centers and municipal effluent discharges. FTIR analysis showed that polyethylene (PE), nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) were the most abundant polymer types. More than half of the observed MPs (56%) were in the size category of 1–4.7 mm length, with the remaining particles (44%) being in the size range of 10 μm to <1 mm. Compared to literature data from other regions, intertidal sediments in the Persian Gulf cannot be characterized as a hot spot for MP pollution. The present study could, however, provide useful background information for further investigations and management policies to understand the sources, transport, and potential effects on marine life in the Persian Gulf.

Abolfazl Naji, Zinat Esmaili, Sherri A. Mason, A. Dick Vethaak, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1–10, 14 July 2017

The article

Release of polyester and cotton fibers from textiles in machine washings

Microplastics are widely spread in the environment, which along with still increasing production have aroused concern of their impacts on environmental health. The objective of this study is to quantify the number and mass of two most common textile fibers discharged from sequential machine washings to sewers. The number and mass of microfibers released from polyester and cotton textiles in the first wash varied in the range 2.1 × 105 to 1.3 × 107 and 0.12 to 0.33% w/w, respectively. Amounts of released microfibers showed a decreasing trend in sequential washes. The annual emission of polyester and cotton microfibers from household washing machines was estimated to be 154,000 (1.0 × 1014) and 411,000 kg (4.9 × 1014) in Finland (population 5.5 × 106). Due to the high emission values and sorption capacities, the polyester and cotton microfibers may play an important role in the transport and fate of chemical pollutants in the aquatic environment.

Markus SillanpääPirjo Sainio, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1–9, July, 01, 2017

The article

The Impacts of Biofilm Formation on the Fate and Potential Effects of Microplastic in the Aquatic Environment

In the aquatic environment, Microplastic (MP; < 5 mm) is a cause of concern due to its persistence and potential adverse effects on biota. Studies on microlitter impacts are mostly based on virgin and spherical polymer particles as model MP. However, in pelagic and benthic environments, surfaces are always colonized by microorganisms forming so-called biofilms. The influence of such biofilms on the fate and potential effects of MP presents a current knowledge gap. Here, we review the physical interactions of early microbial colonization on plastic surfaces and their reciprocal influence on the weathering processes and vertical transport as well as sorption and release of contaminants by MP. Possible ecological consequences of biofilm formation on MP, such as trophic transfer of MP particles and potential adverse effects of MP, are virtually unknown. However, the evidence is accumulating that by modifying the physical properties of the particles, the biofilm-plastic interactions have the capacity to influence the fate and impacts MP may have. There is an urgent research need to better understand these interactions and increase ecological relevance of current laboratory testing by simulating field conditions where microbial life is a key driver of the biogeochemical processes.

Christoph D. Rummel, Annika Jahnke, Elena Gorokhova, Dana Kühnel, and Mechthild Schmitt-Jansen, Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2017, 4 (7), pp 258–267

Are There Nanoplastics in Your Personal Care Products?

Fragmentation of plastic debris and the commercial use of plastic microbeads have led to the widespread distribution of microplastics in natural environments. Several studies have reported on the occurrence and toxicity of microplastics in soils and waters; however, due to methodological challenges, the presence and impact of nanoplastics (<100 nm) in natural systems have been largely ignored. Microbeads used in consumer products such as scrubs and shampoos are processed by mechanical means that may lead to their fragmentation into potentially more hazardous nanoplastics. In this study, three commercial facial scrubs containing polyethylene microbeads (~0.2 mm diameter) were examined to verify whether they contained nanoplastics. Particulates in the scrubs were fractionated using sequential filtration to isolate particles smaller than 100 nm. Scanning electron microscopy was used to confirm the presence of nanoparticles ranging in size from 24 ± 6 nm to 52 ± 14 nm. X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy were used to confirm that the identified nanoparticles consisted of polyethylene. This study confirms the (unexpected) presence of nanoplastics in personal care products containing polyethylene microbeads and highlights the need for further studies to characterize the release and distribution of nanoplastic litter in natural aquatic and soil environments.

Laura M. Hernandez, Nariman Yousefi, and Nathalie Tufenkji, Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2017, 4 (7), pp 280–285

Freshwater’s macro microplastic problem

Like in the oceans, the bulk of the pollution in rivers and lakes is not in the form of plastic bottles and other large pieces, but tiny pieces called microplastics that would be hard to spot. “Three quarters of what we take out of the Great Lakes are less than a millimeter in size,” she says. “It’s basically the size of a period of a sentence.” These plastics are concerning to scientists because they are being ingested by a variety of aquatic organisms. (…) (pbs.org, 11/05/2017)

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Is the Montreal Protocol a model that can help solve the global marine plastic debris problem?

The impacts of plastic debris on the marine environment have gained the attention of the global community. Although the plastic debris problem presents in the oceans, the failure to control land-based plastic waste is the primary cause of these marine environmental impacts. Plastics in the ocean are mainly a land policy issue, yet the regulation of marine plastic debris from land-based sources is a substantial gap within the international policy framework. Regulating different plastics at the final product level is difficult to implement. Instead, the Montreal Protocol may serve as a model to protect the global ocean common, by reducing the production of virgin material within the plastics industry and by regulating both the polymers and chemical additives as controlled substances at a global level. Similar to the Montreal Protocol, national production and consumption of this virgin content can be calculated, providing an opportunity for the introduction of phased targets to reduce and eliminate the agreed substances to be controlled. The international trade of feedstock materials that do not meet the agreed minimum standards can be restricted. The aim of such an agreement would be to encourage private investment in the collection, sorting and recycling of post-consumer material for reuse as feedstock, thereby contributing to the circular economy. The proposed model is not without its challenges, particularly when calculating costs and benefits, but is worthy of further consideration by the international community in the face of the global threats posed to the ocean by plastics.

Karen Raubenheimer, Alistair McIlgorm, Marine Policy, Volume 81, July 2017, Pages 322–329

The article

Microplastic in Aquatic Ecosystems

The contamination of marine and freshwater ecosystems with plastic, and especially with microplastic (MP), is a global ecological problem of increasing scientific concern. This has stimulated a great deal of research on the occurrence of MP, interaction of MP with chemical pollutants, the uptake of MP by aquatic organisms, and the resulting (negative) impact of MP. Herein, we review the major issues of MP in aquatic environments, with the principal aims 1) to characterize the methods applied for MP analysis (including sampling, processing, identification and quantification), indicate the most reliable techniques, and discuss the required further improvements; 2) to estimate the abundance of MP in marine/freshwater ecosystems and clarify the problems that hamper the comparability of such results; and 3) to summarize the existing literature on the uptake of MP by living organisms. Finally, we identify knowledge gaps, suggest possible strategies to assess environmental risks arising from MP, and discuss prospects to minimize MP abundance in aquatic ecosystems.

N. P. Ivleva, a. Wiesheu, R. Niessner, Angew.Chem.Int., Volume 56, Issue 7, February 6, 2017, Pages 1720–1739  

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