Distribution of Microplastics and Nanoplastics in Aquatic Ecosystems and Their Impacts on Aquatic Organisms, with Emphasis on Microalgae

Plastics, with their many useful physical and chemical properties, are widely used in various industries and activities of daily living. Yet, the insidious effects of plastics, particularly long-term effects on aquatic organisms, are not properly understood. Plastics have been shown to degrade to micro- and nanosize particles known as microplastics and nanoplastics, respectively. These minute particles have been shown to cause various adverse effects on aquatic organisms, ranging from growth inhibition, developmental delay and altered feeding behaviour in aquatic animals to decrease of photosynthetic efficiency and induction of oxidative stress in microalgae. This review paper covers the distribution of microplastics and nanoplastics in aquatic ecosystems, focusing on their effects on microalgae as well as co-toxicity of microplastics and nanoplastics with other pollutants. Besides that, this review paper also discusses future research directions which could be taken to gain a better understanding of the impacts of microplastics and nanoplastics on aquatic ecosystems.

Jun-Kit Wan, Wan-Loy Chu, Yih-Yih Kok, Choy-Sin Lee, Chapter, Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series, Springer

The chapter


Toxicities of polystyrene nano- and microplastics toward marine bacterium Halomonas alkaliphila

Nano- and microplastics have been shown to cause negative effects on marine organisms. However, the toxicities of nano- and microplastics toward marine bacteria are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the toxic effects of polystyrene nano- and microplastics on the marine bacterium Halomonas alkaliphila by determining growth inhibition, chemical composition, inorganic nitrogen conversion efficiencies and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. The results showed that both nano- and microplastics inhibited the growth of H. alkaliphila in high concentrations, while nanoplastics rather than microplastics influenced the growth inhibition, chemical composition and ammonia conversion efficiencies of H. alkaliphila at concentration of 80 mg/L. The ROS generation indicated oxidative stress induced by nano- but not microplastics, and the oxidative stress induced by nanoplastics may provide a significant effect on bacteria. Furthermore, the positively charged nanoplastics (amine-modified 50 nm) induced higher oxidative stress toward bacteria than that induced by negatively charged nanoplastics (non-modified 55 nm). The increased extracellular polymeric substances as evidenced by transmission electron microscope (TEM) observation suggested the possible bacterial protective mechanisms. The present study illustrates for the first time the impact of plastics debris on the inorganic nitrogen conversion efficiencies of marine bacteria. Our findings highlight the effects of microplastics on the ecological function of marine organisms.

Xuemei Sun, Bijuan Chen, Qiufen Li, Nan Liu, Bin Xia, Lin Zhu, Keming Qu, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 642, 15 November 2018, Pages 1378–1385

The article

Styrene impairs normal embryo development in the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis)

This study analysed the effects of styrene, a main monomer in plastic manufacturing and acknowledged to be amongst the most common plastic leachates, on early embryo development of the Mediterranean mussel. Embryotoxicity tests showed that styrene impaired normal embryo development at concentrations (0.01 μg/L–1 mg/L) encompassing the environmental range. Occurrence of normal D-veligers was significantly reduced up to 40% of the total, and larval size was reduced of about 20%. D-veligers grown in the presence of styrene (0.1 and 10 μg/L) showed significant reduction of total Multixenobiotic resistance (MXR) efflux activity that was not apparently related to transcriptional expression of genes encoding P-glycoprotein (ABCB) and Mrp (ABCC), the two main ABC transporters of embryonal MXR system. Indeed, ABCB transcription was not affected by styrene, while ABCC was up-regulated. At these same concentrations, transcriptional profiles of 15 genes underlying key biological functions in embryo development and potential targets of adverse effects of styrene were analysed. Main transcriptional effects were observed for genes involved in shell biogenesis and lysosomal responses (down-regulation), and in neuroendocrine signaling and immune responses (up-regulation). On the whole, results indicate that styrene may affect mussel early development through dysregulation of gene transcription and suggest the possible conservation of styrene mode of action across bivalve life cycle and between bivalves and humans, as well as through unpredicted impacts on protective systems and on shell biogenesis.

Rajapaksha Haddokara Gedara Rasika Wathsala, Silvia Franzellitti, Morena Scaglione,
Elena Fabbri, Aquatic Toxicology, Volume 201, August 2018, Pages 58-65

The article

Turning microplastics into nanoplastics through digestive fragmentation by Antarctic krill

Microplastics (plastics <5 mm diameter) are at the forefront of current environmental pollution research, however, little is known about the degradation of microplastics through ingestion. Here, by exposing Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) to microplastics under acute static renewal conditions, we present evidence of physical size alteration of microplastics ingested by a planktonic crustacean. Ingested microplastics (31.5 µm) are fragmented into pieces less than 1 µm in diameter. Previous feeding studies have shown spherical microplastics either; pass unaffected through an organism and are excreted, or are sufficiently small for translocation to occur. We identify a new pathway; microplastics are fragmented into sizes small enough to cross physical barriers, or are egested as a mixture of triturated particles. These findings suggest that current laboratory-based feeding studies may be oversimplifying interactions between zooplankton and microplastics but also introduces a new role of Antarctic krill, and potentially other species, in the biogeochemical cycling and fate of plastic.

Amanda L. Dawson, So Kawaguchi, Catherine K. King, Kathy A. Townsend, Robert King, Wilhelmina M. Huston, Susan M. Bengtson Nash ,Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 1001, 2018

The article

Sticky tape and simulations help assess microplastic risk

Tiny pieces of plastic, now ubiquitous in the marine environment, have long been a cause of concern for their ability to absorb toxic substances and potentially penetrate the food chain. Now scientists are beginning to understand the level of threat posed to life, by gauging the extent of marine accumulation and tracking the movement of these contaminants. (…)

N. Grover, Horizon EU magazine, 23/04/2018

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Fate of Nanoplastics in Marine Larvae: A Case Study Using Barnacles, Amphibalanus amphitrite

The exposure of nanoplastics was investigated by observing their interaction with Amphibalanus amphitrite (commonly known as acorn barnacles). Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and fluorescent perylene tetraester (PTE) dye were used to prepare highly fluorescent nanoplastic particles. At concentrations of 25 ppm, the PMMA particles showed no detrimental impact on barnacle larvae and their microalgae feed, Tetraselmis suecica and Chaetoceros muelleri. PMMA nanoplastics were ingested and translocated inside the body of the barnacle nauplii within the first 3 hours of incubation. The fluorescent PMMA particles inside the transparent nauplius were tracked using confocal fluorescence microscopy. Subsequently, the nanoplastics were fed to the barnacles under two conditions – acute and chronic exposure. The results from acute exposure show that nanoplastics persist in the body throughout stages of growth and development – from nauplius to cyprid and juvenile barnacle. Some egestion of nanoplastics was observed through moulting and faecal excrement. In comparison, chronic exposure demonstrates bioaccumulation of the nanoplastics even at low concentrations of the plastics. The impacts of our study using PMMA nanoparticles exceeds current knowledge, where most studies stop at uptake and ingestion. Here we demonstrate that uptake of nanoparticles during planktonic larval stages may persist to the adult stages, indicating the potential for the long-term impacts of nanoplastics on sessile invertebrate communities.

Samarth Bhargava, Serina Siew Chen Lee, Lynette Shu Min Ying, Mei Lin Neo, Serena Lay-Ming Teo, and Suresh Valiyaveettil, ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., Just Accepted Manuscript, March 21, 2018

Microplastics in the environment: Challenges in analytical chemistry – A review

Microplastics can be present in the environment as manufactured microplastics (known as primary microplastics) or resulting from the continuous weathering of plastic litter, which yields progressively smaller plastic fragments (known as secondary microplastics). Herein, we discuss the numerous issues associated with the analysis of microplastics, and to a less extent of nanoplastics, in environmental samples (water, sediments, and biological tissues), from their sampling and sample handling to their identification and quantification. The analytical quality control and quality assurance associated with the validation of analytical methods and use of reference materials for the quantification of microplastics are also discussed, as well as the current challenges within this field of research and possible routes to overcome such limitations.

Ana B. Silva, Ana S. Bastos, Celine I.L. Justino and al., Analytica Chimica Acta, Available online 20 February 2018, In Press

The article