Widespread detection of a brominated flame retardant, hexabromocyclododecane, in expanded polystyrene marine debris and microplastics from South Korea and the Asia-Pacific coastal region

The role of marine plastic debris and microplastics as a carrier of hazardous chemicals in the marine environment is an emerging issue. This study investigated expanded polystyrene (EPS, commonly known as styrofoam) debris, which is a common marine debris item worldwide, and its additive chemical, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). To obtain a better understanding of chemical dispersion via EPS pollution in the marine environment, intensive monitoring of HBCD levels in EPS debris and microplastics was conducted in South Korea, where EPS is the predominant marine debris originate mainly from fishing and aquaculture buoys. At the same time, EPS debris were collected from 12 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and HBCD concentrations were measured. HBCD was detected extensively in EPS buoy debris and EPS microplastics stranded along the Korean coasts, which might be related to the detection of a quantity of HBCD in non-flame-retardant EPS bead (raw material). The wide detection of the flame retardant in sea-floating buoys, and the recycling of high-HBCD-containing EPS waste inside large buoys highlight the need for proper guidelines for the production and use of EPS raw materials, and the recycling of EPS waste. HBCD was also abundantly detected in EPS debris collected from the Asia-Pacific coastal region, indicating that HBCD contamination via EPS debris is a common environmental issue worldwide. Suspected tsunami debris from Alaskan beaches indicated that EPS debris has the potential for long-range transport in the ocean, accompanying the movement of hazardous chemicals. The results of this study indicate that EPS debris can be a source of HBCD in marine environments and marine food web.

Mi Jang, Won Joon Shim, Gi Myung Han and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 231, Part 1, December 2017, Pages 785-794

The article


Occurrence and Distribution of Microplastics in the Sea Surface Microlayer in Jinhae Bay, South Korea

Microplastic contamination of the marine environment is a worldwide concern. The abundance of microplastics was evaluated in the sea surface microlayer in Jinhae Bay, on the southern coast of Korea. The microplastics in this study are divided into paint resin particles and plastics by polymer type. The mean abundance of paint resin particles (94 ± 68 particles/L) was comparable to that of plastics (88 ± 68 particles/L). Fragmented microplastics, including paint resin particles, accounted for 75 % of total particles, followed by spherules (14 %), fibers (5.8 %), expanded polystyrene (4.6 %), and sheets (1.6 %). Alkyd (35 %) and poly(acrylate/styrene) (16 %) derived from ship paint resin were dominant, and the other microplastic samples consisted of polypropylene, polyethylene, phenoxy resin, polystyrene, polyester, synthetic rubber, and other polymers. The abundance of plastics was significantly (p < 0.05) higher in Jinhae Bay, which is surrounded by a coastal city, than along the east coast of Geoje, which is relatively open sea. The floating microplastic abundance in surface water was the highest reported worldwide.


Young Kyoung Song, Sang Hee Hong, Mi Jang, Gi Myung Han, Won Joon Shim, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 279-287, October 2015

The article


Abundance and distribution characteristics of microplastics in surface seawaters of the Incheon/Kyeonggi coastal region

Microplastics in marine environments are of emerging concern due to their widespread distribution, their ingestion by various marine organisms, and their roles as a source and transfer vector of toxic chemicals. However, our understanding of their abundance and distribution characteristics in surface seawater (SSW) remains limited. We investigated microplastics in the surface microlayer (SML) and the SSW at 12 stations near-shore and offshore of the Korean west coast, Incheon/Kyeonggi region. Variation between stations, sampling media, and sampling methods were compared based on abundances, size distribution, and composition profiles of microsized synthetic polymer particles. The abundance of microplastics was greater in the SML (152,688 ± 92,384 particles/m3) than in SSW and showed a significant difference based on the sampling method for SSWs collected using a hand net (1602 ± 1274 particles/m3) and a zooplankton trawl net (0.19 ± 0.14 particles/m3). Ship paint particles (mostly alkyd resin polymer) accounted for the majority of microplastics detected in both SML and SSWs, and increased levels were observed around the voyage routes of large vessels. This indicates that polymers with marine-based origins become an important contributor to microplastics in coastal SSWs of this coastal region.

Doo-Hyeon Chae, In-Sung Kim, Seung-Kyu Kim, Young Kyoung Song, Won Joon Shim, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 69 (3):269-278, October 2015

The article


Marine neustonic microplastics around the southeastern coast of Korea

We investigated floating debris around the mouth of the Nakdong River in the Southeastern Sea of Korea using a Manta trawl (330-μm mesh) and hand-net (50 μm) before (May) and after (July) the rainy season in 2012. Microplastic (<2 mm) was present at all of the stations, whereas Styrofoam (2–5 mm) peaked only at a few stations far from the Nakdong River mouth in July. The dominant types were fibers (polyester), hard plastic (polyethylene), paint particles (alkyd), and Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene). The average abundances of fibers and hard plastic (<2 mm) in the trawl were significantly higher in July than in May (p < 0.005, p < 0.05, respectively), while two orders of magnitude more microplastics (<2 mm) were collected with the hand-net than with the trawl. Fibers and hard plastic by trawl were significantly compared temporally, and the hand-net proved the missed microplastics (50–330 μm) when trawl used.

Jung-Hoon Kang and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 96, Issues 1–2, Pages 304–312, July 2015