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, 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, Available online 14 October 2017, In Press

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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

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, Volume 124, Issue 1, 15 November 2017, Pages 82-88

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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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