Combined effects of microplastics and chemical contaminants on the organ toxicity of zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Microplastics contamination of the aquatic environment is considered a growing problem. The ingestion of microplastics has been documented for a variety of aquatic animals. Studies have shown the potential of microplastics to affect the bioavailability and uptake route of sorbed co-contaminants of different nature in living organisms. Persistent organic pollutants and metals have been the co-contaminants majorly investigated in this field. The combined effect of microplastics and sorbed co-contaminants in aquatic organisms still needs to be properly understood. To address this, we have subjected zebrafish to four different feeds: A) untreated feed; B) feed supplemented with microplastics (LD-PE 125–250 µm of diameter); C) feed supplemented with 2% microplastics to which a mixture of PCBs, BFRs, PFCs and methylmercury were sorbed; and D) feed supplemented with the mixture of contaminants only. After 3 weeks of exposure fish were dissected and liver, intestine, muscular tissue and brain were extracted. After visual observation, evaluation of differential gene expression of some selected biomarker genes in liver, intestine and brain were carried out. Additionally, quantification of perfluorinated compounds in liver, brain, muscular tissue and intestine of some selected samples were performed. The feed supplemented with microplastics with sorbed contaminants produced the most evident effects especially on the liver. The results indicate that microplastics alone does not produce relevant effects on zebrafish in the experimental conditions tested; on the contrary, the combined effect of microplastics and sorbed contaminants altered significantly their organs homeostasis in a greater manner than the contaminants alone.

Sandra Rainieri, Nadia Conlledo, Bodil K. Larsen, Kit Granby, Alejandro Barranco, Environmental Research, Volume 162, April 2018, Pages 135-143

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Characterization of microplastic litter in the gastrointestinal tract of Solea solea from the Adriatic Sea

Micro-plastic particles in the world’s oceans represent a serious threat to both human health and marine ecosystems. Once released into the aquatic environment plastic litter is broken down to smaller pieces through photo-degradation and the physical actions of waves, wind, etc. The resulting particles may become so small that they are readily taken up by fish, crustaceans and mollusks. There is mounting evidence for the uptake of plastic particles by marine organisms that form part of the human food chain and this is driving urgent calls for further and deeper investigations into this pollution issue.

The present study aimed at investigating for the first time the occurrence, amount, typology of microplastic litter in the gastrointestinal tract of Solea solea and its spatial distribution in the northern and central Adriatic Sea. This benthic flatfish was selected as it is a species of high commercial interest within the FAO GFCM (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean) area 37 (Mediterranean and Black Sea) where around 15% of the overall global Solea solea production originates.

The digestive tract contents of 533 individuals collected in fall during 2014 and 2015 from 60 sampling sites were examined for microplastics. These were recorded in 95% of sampled fish, with more than one microplastic item found in around 80% of the examined specimens. The most commonly found polymers were polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, polyethylene, polyester, and polyamide, 72% as fragments and 28% as fibers. The mean number of ingested microplastics was 1.73 ± 0.05 items per fish in 2014 and 1.64 ± 0.1 in 2015. PVC and PA showed the highest densities in the northern Adriatic Sea, both inshore and off-shore while PE, PP and PET were more concentrated in coastal areas with the highest values offshore from the port of Rimini.

G. Pellini, A. Gomiero, T. Fortibuoni and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 234, March 2018, Pages 943–952

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Persistent organic pollutants in fat of three species of Pacific pelagic longline caught sea turtles: Accumulation in relation to ingested plastic marine debris

Image 2In addition to eating contaminated prey, sea turtles may be exposed to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from ingesting plastic debris that has absorbed these chemicals. Given the limited knowledge about POPs in pelagic sea turtles and how plastic ingestion influences POP exposure, our objectives were to: 1) provide baseline contaminant levels of three species of pelagic Pacific sea turtles; and 2) assess trends of contaminant levels in relation to species, sex, length, body condition and capture location. In addition, we hypothesized that if ingesting plastic is a significant source of POP exposure, then the amount of ingested plastic may be correlated to POP concentrations accumulated in fat. To address our objectives we compared POP concentrations in fat samples to previously described amounts of ingested plastic from the same turtles. Fat samples from 25 Pacific pelagic sea turtles [2 loggerhead (Caretta caretta), 6 green (Chelonia mydas) and 17 olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles] were analyzed for 81 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 20 organochlorine pesticides, and 35 brominated flame-retardants. The olive ridley and loggerhead turtles had higher ΣDDTs (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and metabolites) than ΣPCBs, at a ratio similar to biota measured in the South China Sea and southern California. Green turtles had a ratio close to 1:1. These pelagic turtles had lower POP levels than previously reported in nearshore turtles. POP concentrations were unrelated to the amounts of ingested plastic in olive ridleys, suggesting that their exposure to POPs is mainly through prey. In green turtles, concentrations of ΣPCBs were positively correlated with the number of plastic pieces ingested, but these findings were confounded by covariance with body condition index (BCI). Green turtles with a higher BCI had eaten more plastic and also had higher POPs. Taken together, our findings suggest that sea turtles accumulate most POPs through their prey rather than marine debris.

Katharine E. Clukey, Christopher A. Lepczyk, George H. Balazs and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 610–611, 1 January 2018, Pages 402-411

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Impact of Polymer Colonization on the Fate of Organic Contaminants in Sediment

Plastic pellets and microbes are important constitutes in sediment, but the significance of microbes colonizing on plastic pellets to the environmental fate and transport of organic contaminants has not been adequately recognized and assessed. To address this issue, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polyoxymethylene (POM) and polypropylene (PP) slices were preloaded with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethanes (DDTs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and incubated in abiotic and biotic sediment microcosms. Images from scanning electron microscope, Lysogeny Broth agar plates and confocal laser scanning microscope indicated that all polymer slices incubated in biotic sediments were colonized by microorganisms, particularly the LDPE slices. The occurrence of biofilms induced higher dissipation rates of DDTs and PAHs from the LDPE slice surfaces incubated in the biotic sediments than in the abiotic sediments. Plastic colonization on LDPE slice surfaces enhanced the biotransformation of DDT and some PAHs in both marine and river sediments, but had little impact on PCBs. By comparison, PP and POM with unique properties were shown to exert different impacts on the physical and microbial activities as compared to LDPE. These results clearly demonstrated that the significance of polymer surface affiliated microbes to the environmental fate and behavior of organic contaminants should be recognized.

Chen-Chou Wu, Lian-Jun Bao, Liang-Ying Liu, Lei Shi, Shu Tao, and Eddy Y. Zeng, Environ. Sci. Technol., 51 (18), pp 10555–10561, 2017

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The effect of microplastic on the uptake of chemicals by the lugworm Arenicola marina (L.) under environmentally relevant exposure conditions

It has been hypothesized that ingestion of microplastic increases exposure of aquatic organisms to hydrophobic contaminants. To date, most laboratory studies investigated chemical transfer from ingested microplastic without taking other exposure pathways into account. Therefore we studied the effect of polyethylene (PE) microplastic in sediment on PCB uptake by Arenicola marina as a model species, quantifying uptake fluxes from all natural exposure pathways. PCB concentrations in sediment, biota lipids (Clip) and porewater measured with passive samplers were used to derive lipid-normalized bioaccumulation metrics Clip, Biota sediment accumulation factor (BSAF), Bioaccumulation factor (BAF) and the Biota plastic accumulation factor (BPAF). Small effects of PE addition were detected suggesting slightly increased or decreased bioaccumulation. However, the differences decreased in magnitude dependent on the metric used to assess bioaccumulation, in the order: Clip>BSAF>BPAF>BAF, and were non-significant for BAF. The fact that BAF, i.e. normalization of Clip on porewater concentration, largely removed all effects of PE, shows that PE did not act as a measurable vector of PCBs. Biodynamic model analysis confirmed that PE ingestion contributed marginally to bioaccumulation. This work confirmed model-based predictions on the limited relevance of microplastic for bioaccumulation under environmentally realistic conditions, and illustrated the importance of assessing exposure through all media in microplastic bioaccumulation studies.

Ellen Besseling, Edwin M. Foekema, Martine J. Van Den Heuvel-Greve, and Albert A. Koelmans, Environ. Sci. Technol., Volume 51, Issue 15, Page 8795-8804, August 1, 2017

Persistent organic pollutants in selected fishes of the Gulf of Finland

Fish samples of Baltic herring, sprat, flounder, perch, salmon, and river lamprey were collected from the Gulf of Finland in 2013 and 2014 with the aim to get an overview of the occurrence of pollutants in fish caught in Estonian waters. The content of non-dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (ndl PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), organic tin (OT) and perfluorocompounds (PFAS) are examined and discussed in the study. The results revealed that potentially higher content of organo-tin compounds, perfluorocompounds and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in Baltic herring, salmon and river lamprey may cause concern regarding human exposure.

It is important to link pollutant content to lipid content of fish taking into account their seasonal variation in different age classes.

Leili Järv, Hannu Kiviranta, Jani Koponen and al., Journal of Marine Systems, Volume 171, July 2017, Pages 129–133

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Pollutant content in marine debris and characterization by thermal decomposition

Marine debris (MDs) produces a wide variety of negative environmental, economic, safety, health and cultural impacts. Most marine litter has a very low decomposition rate (plastics), leading to a gradual accumulation in the coastal and marine environment. Characterization of the MDs has been done in terms of their pollutant content: PAHs, ClBzs, ClPhs, BrPhs, PCDD/Fs and PCBs. The results show that MDs is not a very contaminated waste. Also, thermal decomposition of MDs materials has been studied in a thermobalance at different atmospheres and heating rates. Below 400–500 K, the atmosphere does not affect the thermal degradation of the mentioned waste. However, at temperatures between 500 and 800 K the presence of oxygen accelerates the decomposition. Also, a kinetic model is proposed for the combustion of the MDs, and the decomposition is compared with that of their main constituents, i.e., polyethylene (PE), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), nylon and polyethylene-terephthalate (PET).

M.E. Iñiguez, J.A. Conesa, A. Fullana, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 117, Issues 1–2, 15 April 2017, Pages 359–365

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