The basic approaches, methods, and procedures for collecting and analyzing samples of microplastics in a marine environment are briefly described.
The increasing demand for and reliance on plastics as an everyday item, and rapid rise in their production and subsequent indiscriminate disposal, rise in human population and industrial growth, have made the material an important environmental concern and focus of interest of many research. Historically, plastic production has increased tremendously to over 250 million tonnes by 2009 with an annual increased rate of 9%. In 2015, the global consumption of plastic materials was reported to be > 300 million tonnes and is expected to surge exponentially. Because plastic polymers are ubiquitous, highly resistant to degradation, the influx of these persistent, complex materials is a risk to human and environmental health. Because microplastics are principally generated from the weathering or breakdown of larger plastics (macroplastics), it is noteworthy and expedient to discuss in detail, expatiate, and tackle this main source. Macro- and microplastic pollution has been reported on a global scale from the poles to the equator. The major problem of concern is that they strangulate and are ingested by a number of aquatic biota especially the filter feeders, such as molluscs, mussels, oysters, from where it enters the food chain and consequently could lead to physical and toxicological effects on aquatic organisms and human being as final consumers. To this end, in order to minimise the negative impacts posed by plastic pollution (macro- and microplastics), a plethora of strategies have been developed at various levels to reduce and manage the plastic wastes. The objective of this paper is to review some published literature on management measures of plastic wastes to curb occurrence and incidents of large- and microplastics pollution in the marine environments.
First Online: 22 February 2018
The increasing global contamination of plastics in marine environments is raising public concerns about the potential hazards of microplastics to environmental and human health. Microplastics formed by the breakdown of larger plastics are typically irregular in shape. The objective of this study was to compare the effects of spherical or irregular shapes of microplastics on changes in organ distribution, swimming behaviors, gene expression, and enzyme activities in sheepshead minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus). Both types of microplastics accumulated in the digestive system, causing intestinal distention. However, when compared to spherical microplastics, irregular microplastics decreased swimming behavior (i.e., total distance travelled and maximum velocity) of sheepshead minnow. Both microplastics generated cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), while ROS-related molecular changes (i.e., transcriptional and enzymatic characteristics) differed. This study provides toxicological insights into the impacts of environmentally relevant (fragmented) microplastics on fish and improves our understanding of the environmental effects of microplastics in the ecosystem.
Jin Soo Choi, Youn-Joo Jung, Nam-Hui Hong, Sang Hee Hong, June-Woo Park, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 129, Issue 1, April 2018, Pages 231–240
Microplastic and microfiber pollution has been documented in all major ocean basins. Microfibers are one of the most common microparticle pollutants along shorelines. Over 9 million tons of fibers are produced annually; 60% are synthetic and ∼25% are non-synthetic. Non-synthetic and semi-synthetic microfibers are infrequently documented and not typically included in marine environment impact analyses, resulting in underestimation of a potentially pervasive and harmful pollutant. We present the most extensive worldwide microparticle distribution dataset using 1-liter grab samples (n = 1393). Our citizen scientist driven study shows a global microparticle average of 11.8 ± 24.0 particles L−1 (mean ± SD), approximately three orders of magnitude higher than global model predictions. Open ocean samples showed consistently higher densities than coastal samples, with the highest concentrations found in the polar oceans (n = 51), confirming previous empirical and theoretical studies. Particles were predominantly microfibers (91%) and 0.1–1.5 mm in length (77%), a smaller size than those captured in the majority of surface studies. Using μFT-IR we determined the material types of 113 pieces; 57% were classified as synthetic, 12% as semi-synthetic, and 31% as non-synthetic. Samples were taken globally, including from coastal environments and understudied ocean regions. Some of these sites are emerging as areas of concentrated floating plastic and anthropogenic debris, influenced by distant waste mismanagement and/or deposition of airborne particles. Incorporation of smaller-sized microfibers in oceanographic models, which has been lacking, will help us to better understand the movement and transformation of synthetic, semi-synthetic and non-synthetic microparticles in regional seas and ocean basins.
A.P.W. Barrows, S.E. Cathey, C.W. Petersen, Environmental Pollution, Volume 237, June 2018, Pages 275–284
Microplastic pollution can impact filter-feeding marine megafauna, namely mobulid rays, filter-feeding sharks, and baleen whales. Emerging research on these flagship species highlights potential exposure to microplastic contamination and plastic-associated toxins. Research and its wide communication are needed to understand the magnitude of the issue and improve marine stewardship. (…)
Elitza S. Germanov, Andrea D. Marshall, Lars Bejder, Maria Cristina Fossi, Neil R. Loneragan, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Available online 6 February 2018, In Press
The issues resulting from plastic waste in the marine environment have highlighted a general failure to control this pollutant on both land and at sea. The international community is now realising that the increasing growth in the amount of plastic pollution in the ocean is reaching a critical point. This has led to a questioning of the current international governance arrangements for marine litter. The environmental and socio-economic impacts of marine litter are a symptom of policy failures and greater action is required “upstream” by industry on land to reduce these impacts. The Stockholm and Basel Conventions are international binding instruments that offer the best opportunity to reduce the impacts of plastics and plastic waste globally. We examine weaknesses in how hazardous wastes are categorised and the options to close the gaps in the current framework that allow for and keep pace with innovation. Both conventions are found to be inadequate to manage the entire lifecycle of all plastic applications. Options are suggested for strengthening the international legal and policy framework in order to reduce on a global scale 1) the quantity of plastic waste generated, and 2) the hazard of plastics throughout their lifecycle.
Karen Raubenheimer, Alistair McIlgorm, Marine Policy, Available online 1 February 2018, In Press
This review covers selected 2016 articles on the biological effects of pollutants and human physical disturbances on marine and estuarine plants, animals, ecosystems and habitats. The review, based largely on journal articles, covers field and laboratory measurement activities (bioaccumulation of contaminants, field assessment surveys, toxicity testing and biomarkers) as well as pollution issues of current interest including endocrine disrupters, emerging contaminants, wastewater discharges, dredging and disposal etc. Special emphasis is placed on effects of oil spills and marine debris due largely to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Several topical areas reviewed in the past (ballast water and ocean acidification) were dropped this year. The focus of this review is on effects, not pollutant fate and transport. There is considerable overlap across subject areas (e.g.some bioaccumulation papers may be cited in other topical categories). Please use keyword searching of the text to locate related but distributed papers. Use this review only as a guide and please consult the original papers before citing them.
Mearns, Alan J.; Reish, Donald J.; Oshida, Philip S.; Morrison, Ann Michelle; Rempel-Hester, Mary Ann; Arthur, Courtney; Rutherford, Nicolle; Pryor, Rachel, Water Environment Research, 2017 Literature Review, pp. 1704-1798 (95)