Impacts of temperature and selected chemical digestion methods on microplastic particles

Alkaline and wet peroxide oxidation chemical digestion techniques used to extract microplastics from organic matrices were assessed for recoveries and for impacts on ability to identify polymer types. Methods using wet peroxide oxidation generated enough heat to result in the complete loss of some types of microplastic particles, and boiling tests confirmed that temperatures >70 °C were responsible for the losses. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) confirmed minimal alteration of the recovered polymers by the applied methods.

K. Munno, P. A. Helm, D. A. Jackson and al., Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Volume 37, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 91–98

The article

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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

Do polyethylene microplastic beads alter the intestinal uptake of Ag in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)? Analysis of the MP vector effect using in vitro gut sacs

Microplastic (MP) vector effects have been well described in the literature but surprisingly little is in known about the impact of MPs on the intestinal uptake of contaminants. The present study aimed to determine whether the intestinal fate of Ag was affected by the presence of polyethylene MP beads. Ag (added as 110mAg) was introduced into the lumen of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) anterior/mid-intestine gut sac preparations as Ag only, Ag and MPs (co-exposure) and Ag-incubated MPs (where Ag was adsorbed to the MP). Results show that after 3 h exposure the distribution of accumulated Ag between the four intestinal compartments (mucus layer, mucosal epithelium, muscle layer and serosal saline) was not affected by either MP condition when compared to Ag alone (p > 0.05, One way ANOVA). Across all treatment groups mucus layer binding dominated (54.2–72.6%) whereas relatively little Ag was transported to the blood compartment (i.e. combined muscle layer and serosal saline compartments, 8.5–15.0%). Accompanying adsorption/desorption studies were performed in relevant media. Over 24 h, 60.6± 2.9% of the available Ag in artificial freshwater adhered to the surface of the PE MPs. In pH adjusted luminal fluids (pH 2.2, 4.1, 7.4 and 9.8) that span the range of conditions encountered within the rainbow trout digestive tract, there was almost complete dissociation at acidic pHs within 3 h (<2% remaining on MPs at both pH 2.2 and pH 4.1). Such pHs are typical of piscine stomach. Based on our finding we suggest that following the ingestion of MPs with adsorbed pollutants, desorption would occur prior to entering the site of uptake. The MPs themselves have no impact on the trans-epithelial transport of the contaminant, but the net result of the MP vector effect is to potentially introduce labile contaminant forms into the intestine.

F. Khan, D. Boyle, E. Chang, N. R. Bury, Environmental Pollution,Volume 231, Part 1, December 2017, Pages 200-206

The article

An airborne remote sensing case study of synthetic hydrocarbon detection using short wave infrared absorption features identified from marine-harvested macro- and microplastics

The abundance and distribution of plastic debris in natural waters is largely unknown due to limited comprehensive monitoring. Here, optical properties of dry and wet marine-harvested plastic debris were quantified to explore the feasibility of plastic debris optical remote sensing in the natural environment. We measured the spectral reflectance of microplastics (< 5 mm) from the North Atlantic Ocean, macroplastics (> 5 mm) washed ashore along the USA west coast and virgin plastic pellets over a wavelength range from 350 to 2500 nm. Compared to the spectral variability of multi-colored dry macroplastics, the measured dry marine-harvested microplastic reflectance spectra could be represented as a single bulk average spectrum with notable absorption features at ~ 931, 1215, 1417 and 1732 nm. The wet marine-harvested microplastics had similar spectral features to the dry microplastics but the magnitude was lower over the measured spectrum. When spectrally matched to the reference library of typical dry virgin pellets, the mean dry marine-harvested microplastics reflectance had moderate similarities to low-density polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene and polymethyl methacrylate. This composition was consistent with the subset sampled with the Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer and what has been reported globally. The absorption features at 1215 and 1732 nm were observable through an intervening atmosphere and used to map the distributions of synthetic hydrocarbons at a landfill and on man-made structures from airborne visible-infrared imaging spectrometer (AVIRIS) imagery, indicating the potential to remotely sense dry washed ashore and land-origin plastics. These same absorption features were identifiable on wet marine-harvested microplastics, but the ability to conduct remote sensing of microplastics at the ocean surface layer will require more detailed radiative transfer analysis and development of high signal-to-noise sensors. The spectral measurements presented here provide a foundation for such advances towards remote detection of plastics from various platforms.

Shungudzemwoyo P. Garaba, Heidi M. Dierssen, Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 205, February 2018, Pages 224–235

The article

Pollutants in plastics within the north Pacific subtropical gyre

Here we report concentrations of pollutants in floating plastics from the North Pacific accumulation zone (NPAC). We compared chemical concentrations in plastics of different types and sizes, assessed ocean plastic potential risks using sediment quality criteria, and discussed the implications of our findings for bioaccumulation. Our results suggest that at least a fraction of the NPAC plastics is not in equilibrium with the surrounding seawater. For instance, ‘hard plastic’ samples had significantly higher PBDE concentrations than ‘nets and ropes’ samples, and 29% of them had PBDE composition similar to a widely used flame-retardant mixture. Our findings indicate that NPAC plastics may pose a chemical risk to organisms as 84% of the samples had at least one chemical exceeding sediment threshold effect levels. Furthermore, our surface trawls collected more plastic than biomass (180 times on average), indicating that some NPAC organisms feeding upon floating particles may have plastic as a major component of their diets. If gradients for pollutant transfer from NPAC plastic to predators exist (as indicated by our fugacity ratio calculations), plastics may play a role in transferring chemicals to certain marine organisms.

Qiqing Chen, Julia Reisser, Serena Cunsolo, Christiaan Kwadijk, Michiel Kotterman, Maira Proietti, Boyan Slat, Francesco Ferrari, Anna Schwarz, Aurore Levivier, Daqiang Yin, Henner Hollert, and Albert A. Koelmans, Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript, 2017

A simple method for quantifying polycarbonate and polyethylene terephthalate microplastics in environmental samples by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry

Microplastics (MPs) have frequently been found in the environment. However, studies of the quantification methods for MPs are still needed. Plastics are polymers with different degrees of polymerization. In this study, alkali-assisted thermal hydrolysis was applied to depolymerize two plastics containing ester groups, polycarbonate (PC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), in a pentanol or butanol system. By determining the concentrations of the depolymerized building block compounds, i.e., bisphenol A and p-phthalic acid, we quantified the amounts of PC and PET MPs in environmental samples. Recoveries of 87.2–97.1% were obtained for the PC and PET plastic particles spiked in the landfill sludge. The method was successfully applied to determine the occurrence of PC and PET MPs in samples of sludge, marine sediments, indoor dust, digestive residues in mussel and clam, and sea salt and rock salt. High concentrations of 246 and 430 mg/kg were determined for PC and PET type MPs, respectively, in an indoor dust. In addition, concentrations of 63.7 mg/kg for PC and 127 mg/kg for PET were detected in the digestive residues of a clam.

Lei Wang, Junjie Zhang, Shaogang Hou and Hongwen Sun, Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., Volume 4, Issue 12, Page 530-534, December 12, 2017

Nanoplastic in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre

Plastics can be found in all ecosystems across the globe. This type of environmental pollution is important, even if its impact is not fully understood. The presence of small plastic particles at the micro- and nanoscales is of growing concern, but nanoplastic has not yet been observed in natural samples. In this study, we examined four size fractions (meso-, large micro-, small micro-, and nanoplastics) of debris collected in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. To obtain the nanoplastic portion, we isolated the colloidal fraction of seawater. After ultrafiltration, the occurrence of nanoscale particles was demonstrated using dynamic light scattering experiments. The chemical fingerprint of the colloids was obtained by pyrolysis coupled with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. We demonstrated that the signal was anthropogenic and attributed to a combination of plastics. The polymer composition varied among the size classes. At the micro- and nanoscales, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene and polyethylene were observed. We also observed changes in the pyrolytic signals of polyethylene with decreasing debris size, which could be related to the structural modification of this plastic as a consequence of weathering.

Alexandra Ter Halle, Laurent Jeanneau, Marion Martignac, Emilie Jardé, Boris Pedrono, Laurent Brach and Julien Gigault, Environ. Sci. Technol., 51 (23), pp 13689–13697, 2017