The effects of microplastics (MP) on aquatic organisms are currently the subject of intense research. Here, we provide a critical perspective on published studies of MP ingestion by aquatic biota. We summarize the available research on MP presence, behaviour and effects on aquatic organisms monitored in the field and on laboratory studies of the ecotoxicological consequences of MP ingestion. We consider MP polymer type, shape, size as well as group of organisms studied and type of effect reported. Specifically, we evaluate whether or not the available laboratory studies of MP are representative of the types of MPs found in the environment and whether or not they have reported on relevant groups or organisms. Analysis of the available data revealed that 1) despite their widespread detection in field-based studies, polypropylene, polyester and polyamide particles were under-represented in laboratory studies; 2) fibres and fragments (800–1600 μm) are the most common form of MPs reported in animals collected from the field; 3) to date, most studies have been conducted on fish; knowledge is needed about the effects of MPs on other groups of organisms, especially invertebrates. Furthermore, there are significant mismatches between the types of MP most commonly found in the environment or reported in field studies and those used in laboratory experiments. Finally, there is an overarching need to understand the mechanism of action and ecotoxicological effects of environmentally relevant concentrations of MPs on aquatic organism health.
Luís Carlos de Sá, Miguel Oliveira, Francisca Ribeiro and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 645, 15 December 2018, Pages 1029-1039