Microplastics pollution in different aquatic environments and biota: A review of recent studies

Microplastics (MPs) are generated from plastic and have negative impact to our environment due to high level of fragmentation. They can be originated from various sources in different forms such as fragment, fiber, foam and so on. For detection of MPs, many techniques have been developed with different functions such as microscopic observation, density separation, Raman and FTIR analysis. Besides, due to ingestion of MPs by wide range of marine species, research on the effect of this pollution on biota as well as human is vital. Therefore, we comprehensively reviewed the occurrence and distribution of MPs pollution in both marine and freshwater environments, including rivers, lakes and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). For future studies, we propose the development of new techniques for sampling MPs in aquatic environments and biota and recommend more research regarding MPs release by WWTPs.

S. Rezania, J. Park, M. F. Md Din and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 133, August 2018, Pages 191-208

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The effects of microplastic on freshwater Hydra attenuata feeding, morphology & reproduction

Microplastic pollution has been a growing concern in the aquatic environment for several years. The abundance of microplastics in the environment has invariably led them to interact with a variety of different aquatic species. The small size of microplastics may make them bioavailable to a great range of species however, the impact this may have is not fully understood. Much of the research on microplastic pollution has focused on the marine environment and species with little research undertaken in freshwater. Here we examine the effect of microplastics on the freshwater cnidarian, Hydra attenuata. This study also describes the development and use of a bioassay to investigate the impact of microplastic on freshwater organisms. Hydra attenuata play a vital role in the planktonic make up of slow moving freshwater bodies which they inhabit and are sensitive environmental indicators. Hydra attenuata were exposed to polyethylene flakes (<400 ìm) extracted from facewash at different concentrations (Control, 0.01, 0.02, 0.04, 0.08 g mL−1). The ecologically relevant endpoint of feeding was measured by determining the amount of prey consumed (Artemia salina) after 30 and 60 min. The amount of microplastics ingested was also recorded at 30 min and 60 min. After which Hydra attenuata were transferred to clean media and observed after 3, 24, 48 & 96 h with changes in their morphology and reproduction (Hydranth numbers) recorded. The results of this study show that Hydra attenuata are capable of ingesting microplastics, with several individuals completely filling their gastric cavities. Significant reductions in feeding rates were observed after 30 min in 0.02 & 0.08 g mL−1 and after 60 min in 0.04 & 0.08 g mL−1 exposures. Exposure to the microplastics caused significant changes to the morphology of Hydra attenuata, however these changes were non-lethal. This study demonstrates that freshwater Hydra attenuata is capable of ingesting microplastics and that microplastic can significantly impact the feeding of freshwater organisms.

Fionn Murphy, Brian Quinn, Environmental Pollution, Volume 234, March 2018, Pages 487-494

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Microplastic contamination of river beds significantly reduced by catchment-wide flooding

Microplastic contamination of the oceans is one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns. The terrestrial component of the global microplastic budget is not well understood because sources, stores and fluxes are poorly quantified. We report catchment-wide patterns of microplastic contamination, classified by type, size and density, in channel bed sediments at 40 sites across urban, suburban and rural river catchments in northwest England. Microplastic contamination was pervasive on all river channel beds. We found multiple urban contamination hotspots with a maximum microplastic concentration of approximately 517,000 particles m−2. After a period of severe flooding in winter 2015/16, all sites were resampled. Microplastic concentrations had fallen at 28 sites and 18 saw a decrease of one order of magnitude. The flooding exported approximately 70% of the microplastic load stored on these river beds (equivalent to 0.85 ± 0.27 tonnes or 43 ± 14 billion particles) and eradicated microbead contamination at 7 sites. We conclude that microplastic contamination is efficiently flushed from river catchments during flooding.

Rachel Hurley, Jamie Woodward, James J. Rothwell, Nature Geoscience,

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The influence of exposure and physiology on microplastic ingestion by the freshwater fish Rutilus rutilus (roach) in the River Thames, UK

Microplastics are widespread throughout aquatic environments. However, there is currently insufficient understanding of the factors influencing ingestion of microplastics by organisms, especially higher predators such as fish. In this study we link ingestion of microplastics by the roach Rutilus rutilus, within the non-tidal part of the River Thames, to exposure and physiological factors. Microplastics were found within the gut contents of roach from six out of seven sampling sites. Of sampled fish, 33% contained at least one microplastic particle. The majority of particles were fibres (75%), with fragments and films also seen (22.7% and 2.3% respectively). Polymers identified were polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester, in addition to a synthetic dye. The maximum number of ingested microplastic particles for individual fish was strongly correlated to exposure (based on distance from the source of the river). Additionally, at a given exposure, the size of fish correlated with the actual quantity of microplastics in the gut. Larger (mainly female) fish were more likely to ingest the maximum possible number of particles than smaller (mainly male) fish. This study is the first to show microplastic ingestion within freshwater fish in the UK and provides valuable new evidence of the factors influencing ingestion that can be used to inform future studies on exposure and hazard of microplastics to fish.

Alice A. Horton, Monika D. Jürgens, Elma Lahive, Peter M. van Bodegom, Martina G. Vijver, Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 188–194

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Accumulation, tissue distribution, and biochemical effects of polystyrene microplastics in the freshwater fish red tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)

While the presence of microplastics (MPs) in marine environments has been detected worldwide, the importance of MPs pollution in freshwater environments has also been emphasized in recent years. However, the body of knowledge regarding the biological effects of MPs on freshwater organisms is still much more limited than on marine organisms. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the accumulation and tissue distribution of MPs in the freshwater fish red tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), as well as the biochemical effects of MPs on O. niloticus. During 14 days of exposure to 0.1 μm polystyrene-MPs at concentrations of 1, 10, and 100 μg L−1, the MPs concentrations in various tissues of O. niloticus generally increased over time following the order gut > gills > liver ≈ brain. Moreover, the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in the fish brain was inhibited by MPs exposure, with a maximum inhibition rate of 37.7%, suggesting the potential neurotoxicity of MPs to freshwater fish. The activities of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes [7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD) and 7-benzyloxy-4-trifluoromethyl-coumarin O-dibenzyloxylase (BFCOD)] in the fish liver exhibited clear temporal variabilities, with significant decreases followed by elevations compared to the control. The alterations of the EROD and BFCOD activities indicate the potential involvement of CYP enzymes for the metabolism of MPs. The activity of antioxidative enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the liver was significantly induced throughout the exposure period, while the malondialdehyde (MDA) content did not vary with MPs exposure, suggesting that the antioxidative enzymatic system in O. niloticus could prevent oxidative damage. These results highlight the ingestion and accumulation of MPs in different tissues of freshwater fish, which lead to perturbations in fish biological systems and should be considered in environmental risk assessment.

Jiannan Ding, Shanshan Zhang, Roger Mamitiana Razanajatovo and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 238, July 2018, Pages 1-9

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Evaluation of uptake and chronic toxicity of virgin polystyrene microbeads in freshwater zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha (Mollusca: Bivalvia)

Microplastics (MPs), plastic debris smaller than 5 mm, are widely found in both marine and freshwater ecosystems. However, few studies regarding their hazardous effects on inland water organisms, have been conducted. For this reason, the aim of our research was the evaluation of uptake and chronic toxicity of two mixtures (MIXs) of virgin polystyrene microbeads (PMs) of 10 μm and 1 μm in size (MIX 1, with 5 × 105 of 1 μm size PMs/L and 5 × 105 of 10 μm size PMs/L, and MIX 2 with 2 × 106 of 1 μm size PMs/L and 2 × 106 of 10 μm size PMs/L) on freshwater zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha (Mollusca: Bivalvia) during 6 exposure days. The PM uptake in the mussel body and hemolymph was assessed using confocal microscopy, while the chronic toxicity of PMs was evaluated on exposed mussels using a comprehensive battery of biomarkers of cellular stress, oxidative damage and neuro- genotoxicity. Confocal microscopy analyses showed that MPs concentrated in the gut lumen of exposed mussels, absorbed and transferred firstly in the tissues and then in the hemolymph. The results revealed that PMs do not produce oxidative stress and genetic damage, with the exception of a significant modulation of catalase and glutathione peroxidase activities in mussels exposed to MIX 1. Regarding neurotoxicity, we observed only a significant increase of dopamine concentration in mussels exposed to both MIXs, suggesting a possible implication of this neurotransmitter in an elimination process of accumulated PMs. This research represents a first study about the evaluation of virgin MP toxicity in zebra mussel and more research is warranted concerning the long term neurological effects of virgin MPs.

Stefano Magni, François Gagné, Chantale André and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 631–632, 1 August 2018, Pages 778–788

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China Focus: Chinese scientists to improve microplastics research

When Wang Wenfeng, a PhD candidate in central China’s Hubei Province, undertook his research into microplastics he did not expect British Prime Minister Theresa May to draw attention to his work. Studying at Wuhan Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, capital of the province, Wang, 29, met the British Prime Minister on Wednesday, the first day of her three-day official visit to the country. She talked with Chinese scholars during her stay in Wuhan, and Wang was among them. “I introduced my studies and findings to her in English. The prime minister listened carefully and said microplastic pollution is a global concern,” Wang said. (…)

Wang and his team carried out research in freshwater by innovating and updating technologies over the past years. They successfully obtained information about microplastic pollution in lakes in Wuhan and the Three Gorges Reservoir area. (…) (xinhuanet.com, 02/02/2018)

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