New Study Reveals Global Water Supply Contaminated by Microplastic Fibers

Microplastics — extremely small pieces (less than 5 mm) of plastic debris resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste — have been found in tap water around the globe, according to a new report by Orb Media, a D.C.-based nonprofit digital newsroom. The discovery has led to a call from the scientific community for urgent research on microplastics’ implications for human health.

Designed by Dr. Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia and Elizabeth Wattenberg at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, the tap water study screened 159 half liter drinking water samples from 14 countries: Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Slovakia, Switzerland, Uganda, the UK and the US. Overall, 83 percent of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibers.

European countries demonstrated the lowest level of contamination, though this was still 72 percent. The average number of microplastics found in each 500ml sample ranged from 1.9 in Europe to 4.8 in the US. (…) (sustainablebrands.com, 11/09/2017, Orb media)

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Orb media – Invisibles plastics

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Effects of polystyrene microbeads in marine planktonic crustaceans

Plastic debris accumulates in the marine environment, fragmenting into microplastics (MP), causing concern about their potential toxic effects when ingested by marine organisms. The aim of this study was to verify whether 0.1 µm polystyrene beads are likely to trigger lethal and sub-lethal responses in marine planktonic crustaceans. MP build-up, mortality, swimming speed alteration and enzyme activity (cholinesterases, catalase) were investigated in the larval stages of Amphibalanus amphitrite barnacle and of Artemia franciscana brine shrimp exposed to a wide range of MP concentrations (from 0.001 to 10 mg L-1) for 24 and 48 h. The results show that MP were accumulated in crustaceans, without affecting mortality. Swimming activity was significantly altered in crustaceans exposed to high MP concentrations (> 1 mg L-1) after 48 h. Enzyme activities were significantly affected in all organisms exposed to all the above MP concentrations, indicating that neurotoxic effects and oxidative stress were induced after MP treatment. These findings provide new insight into sub-lethal MP effects on marine crustaceans.

Chiara Gambardella, Silvia Morgana, Sara Ferrando and al., Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Volume 145, November 2017, Pages 250-257

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Foraging preferences influence microplastic ingestion by six marine fish species from the Texas Gulf Coast

This study evaluated the influence of foraging preferences on microplastic ingestion by six marine fish species from the Texas Gulf Coast. A total of 1381 fish were analyzed and 42.4% contained ingested microplastic, inclusive of fiber (86.4%), microbead (12.9% %), and fragment (< 1.0%) forms. Despite a substantial overlap in diet, ordination of ingested prey items clustered samples into distinctive species groupings, reflective of the foraging gradient among species. Orthopristis chrysoptera displayed the lowest overall frequency of microplastic ingestion and the most distinctive ordination grouping, indicating their selective invertebrate foraging preferences. Cluster analysis of O. chrysoptera most closely classified microplastic with the ingestion of benthic invertebrates, whereas the ingestion of microplastic by all other species most closely classified with the ingestion of vegetation and shrimp. O. chrysoptera, as selective invertebrate foragers, are less likely to ingest microplastics than species exhibiting generalist foraging preferences and methods of prey capture.

Colleen A. Peters, Peyton A. Thomas, Kaitlyn B. Rieper, Susan P. Bratton, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 11 July 2017, In Press

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The first evaluation of microplastics in sediments from the complex lagoon-channel of Bizerte (Northern Tunisia)

Microplastics (MPs) in sediments from the complex lagoon-channel of Bizerte were investigated, for the first time, to evaluate the occurrence and abundance of MPs in Tunisia. After density separation in saline solution, MPs were counted by a stereomicroscope. The number of MPs was at the range of 3–18 items/g sediment (3000–18,000 items/kg dry sediment) and the most contaminated site was of Menzel Abderrahmane (MA) followed by Carrier Bay (CB), Menzel Jemil (MJ) and Channel of Bizerte (C). The MPs gathered during the survey varied in size from 0.3 to 5 mm, and appear in a variety of shapes and colours. The dominant shape was fibre (88.88% in MA, 91.00% in CB, 82.35% in C and 21.05% in MJ). The rest of MPs are fragments whilst no micro beads were found. Colours are clear, white, blue, green, red and black. Cities discharges, fishing activity and industrial production sites are the most likely sources of MPs. This first work provides original data on the presence of MPs that determines their bioavailability to organisms as seafood, and then possibly transfers of to human. The high MP concentrations registered in the complex lagoon-channel of Bizerte suggest that this site is a hotspot for MP pollution and there is an urgency to understand their origins and effects on marine life. The results will provide useful background information for further investigations.

Sami Abidli, Hela Toumi, Youssef Lahbib, Najoua Trigui El Menif, Water, Air, & Soil Pollution,  July 2017, 228:262

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Colour spectrum and resin-type determine the concentration and composition of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in plastic pellets

This study assessed the concentration and composition of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in plastic pellets, collected from sandy beaches and considered different resin and colour tones. Results showed that polyethylene pellets, while displaying a greater range of total PAH concentrations did not differ significantly from polypropylene pellets. More importantly, both resin types demonstrated predictable increases in total PAH across a spectrum of darkening colour tones. Multivariate comparisons of 36 PAH groups, further showed considerable variability across resin type and colour, with lighter coloured pellets comprising lower molecular weight, while darker pellets contained higher weight PAHs. Overall, we show predictable variation in PAH concentrations and compositions of plastic pellets of different ages and resin types that will directly influence the potential for toxicological effects. Our findings suggest that monitoring programs should take these attributes into account when assessing the environmental risks of microplastic contamination of marine and coastal habitats.

Mara Fisner, Alessandra Majer, Satie Taniguchi, Márcia Bícego, Alexander Turra, Daniel Gorman, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 3 July 2017, In Press

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Are There Nanoplastics in Your Personal Care Products?

Fragmentation of plastic debris and the commercial use of plastic microbeads have led to the widespread distribution of microplastics in natural environments. Several studies have reported on the occurrence and toxicity of microplastics in soils and waters; however, due to methodological challenges, the presence and impact of nanoplastics (<100 nm) in natural systems have been largely ignored. Microbeads used in consumer products such as scrubs and shampoos are processed by mechanical means that may lead to their fragmentation into potentially more hazardous nanoplastics. In this study, three commercial facial scrubs containing polyethylene microbeads (~0.2 mm diameter) were examined to verify whether they contained nanoplastics. Particulates in the scrubs were fractionated using sequential filtration to isolate particles smaller than 100 nm. Scanning electron microscopy was used to confirm the presence of nanoparticles ranging in size from 24 ± 6 nm to 52 ± 14 nm. X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy were used to confirm that the identified nanoparticles consisted of polyethylene. This study confirms the (unexpected) presence of nanoplastics in personal care products containing polyethylene microbeads and highlights the need for further studies to characterize the release and distribution of nanoplastic litter in natural aquatic and soil environments.

Laura M. Hernandez, Nariman Yousefi, and Nathalie Tufenkji, Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2017, 4 (7), pp 280–285

Addressing the Issue of Microplastics in the Wake of the Microbead-Free Waters Act—A New Standard Can Facilitate Improved Policy

The United States Microbead-Free Waters Act was signed into law in December 2015. It is a bipartisan agreement that will eliminate one preventable source of microplastic pollution in the United States. Still, the bill is criticized for being too limited in scope, and also for discouraging the development of biodegradable alternatives that ultimately are needed to solve the bigger issue of plastics in the environment. Due to a lack of an acknowledged, appropriate standard for environmentally safe microplastics, the bill banned all plastic microbeads in selected cosmetic products. Here, we review the history of the legislation and how it relates to the issue of microplastic pollution in general, and we suggest a framework for a standard (which we call “Ecocyclable”) that includes relative requirements related to toxicity, bioaccumulation, and degradation/assimilation into the natural carbon cycle. We suggest that such a standard will facilitate future regulation and legislation to reduce pollution while also encouraging innovation of sustainable technologies.

Jason P. McDevitt, Craig S. Criddle, Molly Morse, Robert C. Hale, Charles B. Bott, Chelsea M. Rochman, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2017, 51 (12), pp 6611–6617

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