Arctic sea ice is an important temporal sink and means of transport for microplastic

Microplastics (MP) are recognized as a growing environmental hazard and have been identified as far as the remote Polar Regions, with particularly high concentrations of microplastics in sea ice. Little is known regarding the horizontal variability of MP within sea ice and how the underlying water body affects MP composition during sea ice growth. Here we show that sea ice MP has no uniform polymer composition and that, depending on the growth region and drift paths of the sea ice, unique MP patterns can be observed in different sea ice horizons. Thus even in remote regions such as the Arctic Ocean, certain MP indicate the presence of localized sources. Increasing exploitation of Arctic resources will likely lead to a higher MP load in the Arctic sea ice and will enhance the release of MP in the areas of strong seasonal sea ice melt and the outflow gateways.

Ilka Peeken, Sebastian Primpke, Birte Beyer, Julia Gütermann, Christian Katlein, Thomas Krumpen, Melanie Bergmann, Laura Hehemann,  Gunnar Gerdts, Nature Communications, volume 9, 24 April 2018

The article

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Multi-temporal surveys for microplastic particles enabled by a novel and fast application of SWIR imaging spectroscopy – Study of an urban watercourse traversing the city of Berlin, Germany

Highlights

• Fast semi-automated identification of microplastics by SWIR imaging spectroscopy.

• Areally extensive multi-temporal sampling survey.

• Analysis of rainstorm related microplastic input to watercourse.

• Evidence of an urban area as a source of microplastic pollution.

L. K. Schmidt, M. Bochow, H. K. Imhof and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 239, August 2018, Pages 579–589

The article

Abundance, composition, and distribution of microplastics larger than 20 μm in sand beaches of South Korea

To support microplastic management, the abundance, composition, and spatial distribution of microplastics on a national scale must be known. Hence, we studied the baseline level of microplastic pollution at 20 sandy beaches along the South Korean coast. All microplastic particles extracted from the sand samples were identified down to 20 μm in size using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The abundances of large microplastics (L-MPs; 1–5 mm) and small microplastics (S-MPs; 0.02–1 mm) were in the range of 0–2088 n/m2 and 1400–62800 n/m2, respectively. Maximum microplastic abundance was in the size range of 100–150 μm, and particles smaller than 300 μm accounted for 81% of the total abundance. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) accounted for 95% of L-MPs, whereas S-MPs were predominantly composed of polyethylene (49%) and polypropylene (38%). The spatial distribution of L-MPs, excluding EPS, was significantly related to population, precipitation, proximity to a river mouth and abundance of macroplastic debris on beach. However, there were no relationships between S-MPs and other environmental and source-related factors, except for macroplastic debris and L-MPs excluding EPS. These results imply that S-MPs are mainly produced on beaches by weathering, whereas L-MPs other than EPS are mainly introduced from land-based sources and are also partly produced on beaches.

Soeun Eo, Sang Hee Hong, Young Kyoung Song and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 238, July 2018, Pages 894-902

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Application of an enzyme digestion method reveals microlitter in Mytilus trossulus at a wastewater discharge area

The ingestion of microlitter by blue mussels (450) was studied at a wastewater recipient area in the Baltic Sea. The mussel soft tissues were digested using enzymatic detergents and the detected litter particles characterized with FT-IR imaging spectroscopy. Microlitter concentration in seawater and WWTP effluent were also measured. Microlitter was found in 66% of the mussels. Mussels from the WWTP recipient had higher microlitter content compared to those collected at the reference site. Plastics made up 8% of all the analysed microlitter particles. The dominating litter types were fibres (~90% of all microlitter), 42% of which were cotton, 17% linen, 17% viscose and 4% polyester. The risk of airborne contamination during laboratory work was lowered when mussels were digested with their shells on instead of dissecting them first. The approach was found applicable and gentle to both non-synthetic and synthetic materials including fragile fibres.

Saana Railo, Julia Talvitie, Outi Setälä and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 130, May 2018,  Pages 206–214

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Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of Italian Subalpine Lakes

Plastic debris incidence in marine environment was already highlighted in the early 1970s. Over the last decade, microplastic pollution in the environment has received increasing attention and is now an emerging research area. Many studies have focused on quantifying microplastic abundance in the marine environment, while there are relatively few data on microplastic occurrence in freshwater environment. Recent studies have reported high concentrations of microplastics in lakes and rivers, although the understanding of several factors influencing source, transport and fate is still limited. This study compares different lakes and the common factors, which could influence the occurrence and distribution of microplastics. The three subalpine lakes monitored include Lake Maggiore, Iseo and Garda. The selected sampling transects reflect the hydrologic conditions, the morphometric characteristics of these lakes, and other factors influencing the release of plastics debris in lakes. Particles of microplastics (<5 mm) were found in all sampled surfaces. The particles collected were classified depending on their number, shape and composition. The shape distribution showed the dominating occurrence of fragments (73.7%). The chemical composition of all examined samples clearly shows dominating presence of polyethylene (45%), polystyrene (18%) and polypropylene (15%). The results provide significant relations among the different contribution of direct and diffuse sources to the quantity of microplastics, highlighting the importance of understanding the spatial distribution dynamics of microplastics within a lake system that acts as a sink and source of plastic particles.

Maria Sighicelli, Loris Pietrelli, Francesca Lecce and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 645–651

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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

The article

Characterization of microplastic litter from oceans by an innovative approach based on hyperspectral imaging

An innovative approach, based on HyperSpectral Imaging (HSI), was developed in order to set up an efficient method to analyze marine microplastic litter. HSI was applied to samples collected by surface-trawling plankton nets from several parts of the world (i.e. Arctic, Mediterranean, South Atlantic and North Pacific). Reliable information on abundance, size, shape and polymer type for the whole ensemble of plastic particles in each sample was retrieved from single hyperspectral images. The simultaneous characterization of the polymeric composition of the plastic debris represents an important analytical advantage considering that this information, and even the validation of the plastic nature of the small debris, is a common flaw in the analysis of marine microplastic pollution. HSI was revealed as a rapid, non-invasive, non-destructive and reliable technology for the characterization of the microplastic waste, opening a promising way for improving the plastic pollution monitoring.

Silvia Serranti, Roberta Palmieri, Giuseppe Bonifazi, Andrés Cózar, Waste Management, Available online 5 March 2018, In Press

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