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

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Chemoreception drives plastic consumption in a hard coral

The drivers behind microplastic (up to 5 mm in diameter) consumption by animals are uncertain and impacts on foundational species are poorly understood. We investigated consumption of weathered, unfouled, biofouled, pre-production and microbe-free National Institute of Standards plastic by a scleractinian coral that relies on chemosensory cues for feeding. Experiment one found that corals ingested many plastic types while mostly ignoring organic-free sand, suggesting that plastic contains phagostimulents. Experiment two found that corals ingested more plastic that wasn’t covered in a microbial biofilm than plastics that were biofilmed. Additionally, corals retained ~ 8% of ingested plastic for 24 h or more and retained particles appeared stuck in corals, with consequences for energetics, pollutant toxicity and trophic transfer. The potential for chemoreception to drive plastic consumption in marine taxa has implications for conservation.

A. S. Allen, A. C. Seymour, D. Rittschof, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 22 July 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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Spatial distribution of marine debris on the seafloor of Moroccan waters

Marine debris pollution is considered as a worldwide problem and a direct threat to the environment, economy and human health. In this paper, we provide the first quantitative assessment of debris on the seafloor of the southern part of the economic exclusive waters of Morocco. The data were collected in a scientific trawl survey carried out from 5 to 25 October 2014 between (26N) to (21N) covering different stratums of depths (from 10 to 266 m) and following a sampling network of 100 stations distributed randomly in the study area. A total of 603 kg of debris was collected and sorted into five main categories: plastic, metal, rubber, textiles and glass. Over 50% of collected items was made by plastic, 94% of them are the plastic fishing gear used to capture the Octopus vulgaris. The analysis of the distribution shows that anthropogenic debris is present in the majority of the prospected area (∼ 47,541 km2) with different densities ranging from 0 to 1768 (± 298,15) kg/km2. The spatial autocorrelation approach using GIS shows that the concentration of this debris is correlated very well with a set of factors such as the proximity to fishing activity sites. Moreover, the mechanism of transportation and dispersion was influenced by the hydrodynamic properties of the region.

S. Loulad, R. Houssa, H Rhinane and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 24 July 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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Small plastic debris in sediments from the Central Adriatic Sea: Types, occurrence and distribution

This is the first survey to investigate the occurrence and extent of microplastic contamination in sediments collected along a coast-open sea 140 km-long transect in the Central Adriatic Sea. Plastic debris extracted from 64 samples of sediments were counted, weighted and identified by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). Several types of plastic particles were observed in 100% of the stations. Plastic particles ranged from 1 to 30 mm in length. The primary shape types by number were filaments (69.3%), followed by fragments (16.4%), and film (14.3%). Microplastics (1–5 mm) accounted for 65.1% of debris, mesoplastics (5–20 mm) made up 30.3% of total amount, while macro debris (> 20 mm) accounted for 4.6% of total plastics collected. Identification through FT-IR spectroscopy evidenced the presence of 6 polymer types: the majority of plastic debris were nylon, polyethylene and ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer. Our data are a baseline for microplastic research in the Adriatic Sea.

M. Mistri, V. Infantini, M. Scoponi and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 2 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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Abundant plankton-sized microplastic particles in shelf waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico

Accumulation of marine debris is a global problem that affects the oceans on multiple scales. The majority of floating marine debris is composed of microplastics: plastic particles up to 5 mm in diameter. With similar sizes and appearances to natural food items, these small fragments pose potential risks to many marine organisms including zooplankton and zooplanktivores. Semi-enclosed seas are reported to have high concentrations of microplastics, however, the distribution and concentration of microplastics in one such system, the Gulf of Mexico, remains unknown. Our study documented and characterized microplastics in continental shelf waters off the Louisiana coast in the northern Gulf of Mexico, using bongo nets, neuston nets, and Niskin bottles. Additionally, we compared the size distributions of microplastics and zooplankton collected using the nets. Plastics were manually sorted from the samples, documented, and measured using digital microscopy. Confirmation of putative plastics was carried out by hydrofluoric acid digestion and a subsample was analyzed using FTIR microscopy. Estimated concentrations of microplastics collected on the inner continental shelf during this study are among the highest reported globally. Total microplastic concentrations ranged from 4.8 to 8.2 particles m−3 and 5.0–18.4 particles m−3 for the bongo and neuston samples, respectively. Niskin bottles collected smaller plastic particles than the nets and indicated total microplastic concentrations (primarily fibers) from 6.0E4 – 15.7E4 particles m−3. Microplastic concentrations were greater than the abundances of all but four of the five most abundant taxa from bongo nets and were not statistically different from the abundances of any of the most numerous taxa from neuston nets. Sizes of microplastics and zooplankton partially or completely overlapped, suggesting the potential for confusion with natural prey.

R. Di Mauro, M. J. Kupchik, M. C. Benfield, Environmental Pollution, Volume 230, November 2017, Pages 798-809

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Releasing of hexabromocyclododecanes from expanded polystyrenes in seawater -field and laboratory experiments

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a major component of marine debris globally. Recently, hazardous hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) were detected in EPS buoys used for aquaculture farming. Subsequently, enrichment of HBCDDs was found in nearby marine sediments and mussels growing on EPS buoys. It was suspected that EPS buoys and their debris might be sources of HBCDDs. To confirm this, the release of HBCDDs from EPS spherules detached from a buoy to seawater was investigated under field (open sea surface and closed outdoor chambers with sun exposure and in the dark) and laboratory (particle-size) conditions. In all exposure groups, initial rapid leaching of HBCDDs was followed by slow desorption over time. Abundant release of HBCDDs was observed from EPS spherules exposed to the open sea surface (natural) and on exposure to sunlight irradiation or in the dark in controlled saline water. Water leaching and UV-light/temperature along with possibly biodegradation were responsible for about 37% and 12% of HBCDDs flux, respectively. Crumbled EPS particles (≤ 1 mm) in samples deployed on the sea surface for 6 months showed a high degree of weathering. This implies that surface erosion and further fragmentation of EPS via environmental weathering could enhance the leaching of HBCDDs from the surface of EPS. Overall, in the marine environment, HBCDDs could be released to a great extent from EPS products and their debris due to the cumulative effects of the movement of large volumes of water (dilution), biodegradation, UV-light/temperature, wave action (shaking), salinity and further fragmentation of EPS spherules.

Manviri Rani, Won Joon Shim, Mi Jang and al., Chemosphere, Vol. 185, Oct. 2017

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Fouling assemblage of benthic plastic debris collected from Mersin Bay, NE Levantine coast of Turkey

The Mediterranean is an ecosystem that faces more and more microplastic pollution every day. This causes the whole of the Mediterranean to face the negative effects of plastic pollution. This study examines the state of plastic debris and fouling organisms found on it in one of the areas most affected by plastic pollution, Mersin Bay. As a result, a total of 3.88 kg plastic (mean = 0,97 kg; n = 120; 2670 item/km2; 86,3 kg/km2) was collected and based on the ATR-FTIR analysis, it was determined that this total contained 9 types of plastics. 17 different fouling species belonging to 6 phylum (Annelida, Arthropoda, Bryozoa, Chordata, Cnidaria, Mollusca) 7 class and 11 order were discovered on plastics. Spirobranchus triqueter, Hydroides sp. and Neopycnodonte cochlear were the most abundant species. In the end, the example of Mersin Bay shows that plastic debris as a substrate can contain a very high diversity of life just like natural substrates.

Sedat Gündoğdu, Cem Çevik, Serkan Karaca, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 14 July 2017, In Press

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