Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK

Manufacturing ban means the tiny beads which harm marine life can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care product.

Plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, after a long-promised ban came into effect on Tuesday. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products and a ban on sales will follow in July. (…) (theguardian.com, 9/01/2018)

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Assessing the relationship between the abundance and properties of microplastics in water and in mussels

Microplastic pollution is increasingly becoming a great environmental concern worldwide. Microplastics have been found in many marine organisms as a result of increasing plastic pollution within marine environments. However, the relationship between micoplastics in organisms and their living environment is still relatively poorly understood. In the present study, we investigated microplastic pollution in the water and the mussels (Mytilus edulis, Perna viridis) at 25 sites along the coastal waters of China. We also, for the first time, conducted an exposure experiment in parallel on the same site using M. edulis in the laboratory. A strong positive linear relationship was found between microplastic levels in the water and in the mussels. Fibers were the dominant microplastics. The sizes of microplastics in the mussels were smaller than those in the water. During exposure experiments, the abundance of microbeads was significantly higher than that of fibers, even though the nominal abundance of fibers was eight times that of microbeads. In general, our results supported positive and quantitative correlations of microplastics in mussels and in their surrounding waters and that mussels were more likely to ingest smaller microplastics. Laboratory exposure experiment is a good way to understand the relative impacts of microplastics ingested by marine organisms. However, significant differences in the results between exposure experiments and field investigations indicated that further efforts are needed to simulate the diverse environmentally relevant properties of microplastics.

Xiaoyun Qu, Lei Su, Hengxiang Li, Mingzhong Liang, Huahong Shi, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 621, 15 April 2018, Pages 679–686

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Understanding the Risks of Microplastics: A Social-Ecological Risk Perspective

This chapter deals with these questions by adopting a social-ecological perspective, discussing microplastics as a global risk. Taking four main characteristics of global risks, we develop four arguments to discuss (a) the everyday production of risk by societies, (b) scientific risk evaluation of microplastics, (c) social responses, and (d) problems of risk management. To illustrate these four issues, we draw on different aspects of the current scientific and public debate. In doing so, we contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the social-ecological implications of microplastics.

Johanna Kramm, Carolin Völker, Freshwater Microplastics pp 223-237, Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 58),

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Occurrence of microplastics and its pollution in the environment: A review

The pollution caused by microplastics in seas and fresh water is of growing environmental concern due to their slow degradability, biological ingestion by fish and other aquatic living organisms, and acting as carriers to concentrate and transport synthetic and persistent organic pollutants. As well as microplastics, chemical additives added to plastics during manufacture which may leach out upon ingestion, will enter food chains and potentially cause humans serious health problems.

Regulations in many counties/regions have been setup or to be implemented to ban the production/sale and use of primary microplastics (e.g., microbeads), which could reduce microplastics in the aquatic environment in certain level. However, the fragments from larger plastic items (second microplastics) are major contributors, and then new legislations have to be proposed and implemented in order to substantially reduce the amounts of microplastics in the environment and the associated environmental impact. Moreover, approaches and measures are to be taken by encouraging companies and all users to adopt the Reduce–Reuse–Recycle circular economy as this will represent a cost-effective way of reducing the quantity of plastic objects and microplastics particles entering and gathering in the marine/aquatic environment.

Jia-Qian Jiang, Sustainable Production and Consumption, Available online 21 November 2017, In Press

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Anthropogenic microlitter in the Baltic Sea water column

Microlitter (0.5–5 mm) concentrations in water column (depth range from 0 to 217.5 m) of the main Baltic Proper basins are reported. In total, 95 water samples collected in 6 research cruises in 2015–2016 in the Bornholm, Gdansk, and Gotland basins were analysed. Water from 10- and 30-litre Niskin bathometers was filtered through the 174 μm filters, and the filtrate was examined under optical microscope (40 ×). The bulk mean concentration was 0.40 ± 0.58 items per litre, with fibres making 77% of them. Other types of particles are the paint flakes (19%) and fragments (4%); no microbeads or pellets. The highest concentrations are found in the near-bottom samples from the coastal zone (2.2–2.7 items per litre max) and from near-surface waters (0.5 m) in the Bornholm basin (5 samples, 1.6–2.5 items per litre). Distribution of particles over depths, types, and geographical regions is presented.

A. Bagaev, L. Khatmullina, I. Chubarenko, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 26 October 2017, In Press

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Are we underestimating microplastic contamination in aquatic environments?

Plastic debris, specifically microplastic in the aquatic environment, is an escalating environmental crisis. Efforts at national scales to reduce or ban microplastics in personal care products are starting to pay off, but this will not affect those materials already in the environment or those that result from unregulated products and materials. To better inform future microplastic research and mitigation efforts this study (1) evaluates methods currently used to quantify microplastics in the environment and (2) characterizes the concentration and size distribution of microplastics in a variety of products. In this study, 50 published aquatic surveys were reviewed and they demonstrated that most (~80%) only account for plastics ≥ 300 μm in diameter. In addition, we surveyed 770 personal care products to determine the occurrence, concentration and size distribution of polyethylene microbeads. Particle concentrations ranged from 1.9 to 71.9 mg g−1 of product or 1649 to 31,266 particles g−1 of product. The large majority ( > 95%) of particles in products surveyed were less than the 300 μm minimum diameter, indicating that previous environmental surveys could be underestimating microplastic contamination. To account for smaller particles as well as microfibers from synthetic textiles, we strongly recommend that future surveys consider methods that materials < 300 μm in diameter.

Jeremy L. Conkle, Christian D. Báez Del Valle, Jeffrey W. Turner, Environmental Management, Environmental Management, , Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 1–8

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Chronic ingestion of polystyrene microparticles in low doses has no effect on food consumption and growth to the intertidal amphipod Echinogammarus marinus?

The ingestion of microplastics (plastic particles <5 mm) has been observed in a range of marine organisms, and adverse effects have been reported in several species after high concentration exposure. However, the long-term effects of low-dose ingestion remains unclear. The aim of this study was thus to assess the chronic effects of low concentrations of polystyrene microparticles to the intertidal amphipod Echinogammarus marinus, using food consumption, growth, and moulting as endpoints. Amphipods were fed a gelatinous algal feed spiked with microbeads (8 μm) in concentrations of ∼0.9, 9 and 99 microplastics/g for 35 days. E. marinus was also analysed for retention of microplastics, and egestion rate was calculated in a separate high-dose feeding experiment. No significant effects were found in the food consumption or growth assays. There was no accumulation of microplastics in the gut, with only one microbead recorded internally in three (8%) of the exposed amphipods. The low number is likely linked to gastrointestinal functions, allowing for easy egestion of indigestible items. This assumption was supported by the observation that after high-dose exposure, 60% of E. marinus egested all microbeads within 24 h. This study suggests that ingesting low concentrations of 8 μm microplastics do not impair the feeding or growth of amphipods along the exposure period. We hope that negative results such as these may further assist in assessing the impact posed by microplastics to marine organisms.

Sarah Bruck, Alex T. Ford, Environmental Pollution, Volume 233, February 2018, Pages 1125-1130

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