Dirty laundry : Are your clothes polluting the ocean?

In an indoor “Manchester-drizzle-simulating” rain room at the University of Leeds, and in a laundry lab in Plymouth, research is revealing the unexpected environmental cost of the very clothes on our backs. (…)

And in a recent lab study, they found that polyester and acrylic clothing shed thousands of plastic fibres each time it was washed- sending another source of plastic pollution down the drain and, eventually, into the ocean. (…) (bbc.com, 6/07/2017)

The news

Microplastic pollution in deposited urban dust, Tehran metropolis, Iran

Environmental pollutants such as microplastics have become a major concern over the last few decades. We investigated the presence, characteristics, and potential health risks of microplastic dust ingestion. The plastic load of 88 to 605 microplastics per 30 g dry dust with a dominance of black and yellow granule microplastics ranging in size from 250 to 500 μm was determined in 10 street dust samples using a binocular microscope. Fluorescence microscopy was found to be ineffective for detecting and counting plastic debris. Scanning electron microscopy, however, was useful for accurate detection of microplastic particles of different sizes, colors, and shapes (e.g., fiber, spherule, hexagonal, irregular polyhedron). Trace amounts of Al, Na, Ca, Mg, and Si, detected using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, revealed additives of plastic polymers or adsorbed debris on microplastic surfaces. As a first step to estimate the adverse health effects of microplastics in street dust, the frequency of microplastic ingestion per day/year via ingestion of street dust was calculated. Considering exposure during outdoor activities and workspaces with high abundant microplastics as acute exposure, a mean of 3223 and 1063 microplastic particles per year is ingested by children and adults, respectively. Consequently, street dust is a potentially important source of microplastic contamination in the urban environment and control measures are required.

Dehghani, S., Moore, F. & Akhbarizadeh, R., Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017)

The article

Indicators of Marine Pollution in the North Pacific Ocean

The complex nature of ocean pollution underscores the utility in identifying and characterizing a limited number of “indicators” that enables scientists and managers to track trends over space and time. This paper introduces a special issue on indicators of marine pollution in the North Pacific Ocean and builds on a scientific session that was held at the North Pacific Marine Science Organization. The special issue highlights studies using a variety of indicators to provide insight into the identification of legacy and emerging contaminants, the ranking of priority pollutants from various sources, and the effects of contaminants on ecosystem health in the North Pacific Ocean. Examples include the use of mussels to illustrate spatial and temporal trends of a number of contaminants following the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the use of molecular marker (linear alkylbenzenes, hopanes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) profiles to identify pollution sources, and the use of plastic resin pellets to illustrate spatial trends of petroleum pollution around the world. Stable isotopes were used to strengthen the utility of the Glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens) as an indicator of marine pollution. Examples also demonstrate the development and application of biomarker approaches, including gene transcripts, oxidative stress, estradiol, hatchability, and respiration and swimming behavior abnormalities, as a function of exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, sulfur-diesel, Pinghu crude oil, galaxolide and antifouling biocides. We provide a brief review of indicators of marine pollution, identify research gaps, and summarize key findings from the articles published within the issue. This special issue represents the first compilation of research pertaining to marine pollution indicators in the North Pacific Ocean and provides guidance to inform mitigation and monitoring efforts of contaminants in the region.

Tanya M. Brown, Hideshige Takada, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, pp 1–5, 14 July 2017

The article

Microplastics pollution and reduction strategies

Microplastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size are of increasing concern, especially in aquatic environments, such as the ocean. Primary source is microbeads (<1 mm) used in cosmetics and cleaning agents and fiber fragments from washing of clothes, and secondary source such as broken down plastic litter and debris. These particles are mostly made from polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyesters. They are ingested by diverse marine fauna, including zooplanktons, mussel, oyster, shrimp, fish etc. and can enter human food chains via several pathways. Strategy for control of microplastics pollution should primarily focus on source reduction and subsequently on the development of cost-effective clean up and remediation technologies. Recent research results on biodegradation of plastics have revealed a potential for microbial biodegradation and bioremediation of plastic pollutants, such as PE, PS and PET under appropriate conditions.

Wei-Min Wu, Jun Yang, Craig S. Criddle, Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, February 2017, 11 (1):6

The article