The effects of microplastic on freshwater Hydra attenuata feeding, morphology & reproduction

Microplastic pollution has been a growing concern in the aquatic environment for several years. The abundance of microplastics in the environment has invariably led them to interact with a variety of different aquatic species. The small size of microplastics may make them bioavailable to a great range of species however, the impact this may have is not fully understood. Much of the research on microplastic pollution has focused on the marine environment and species with little research undertaken in freshwater. Here we examine the effect of microplastics on the freshwater cnidarian, Hydra attenuata. This study also describes the development and use of a bioassay to investigate the impact of microplastic on freshwater organisms. Hydra attenuata play a vital role in the planktonic make up of slow moving freshwater bodies which they inhabit and are sensitive environmental indicators. Hydra attenuata were exposed to polyethylene flakes (<400 ìm) extracted from facewash at different concentrations (Control, 0.01, 0.02, 0.04, 0.08 g mL−1). The ecologically relevant endpoint of feeding was measured by determining the amount of prey consumed (Artemia salina) after 30 and 60 min. The amount of microplastics ingested was also recorded at 30 min and 60 min. After which Hydra attenuata were transferred to clean media and observed after 3, 24, 48 & 96 h with changes in their morphology and reproduction (Hydranth numbers) recorded. The results of this study show that Hydra attenuata are capable of ingesting microplastics, with several individuals completely filling their gastric cavities. Significant reductions in feeding rates were observed after 30 min in 0.02 & 0.08 g mL−1 and after 60 min in 0.04 & 0.08 g mL−1 exposures. Exposure to the microplastics caused significant changes to the morphology of Hydra attenuata, however these changes were non-lethal. This study demonstrates that freshwater Hydra attenuata is capable of ingesting microplastics and that microplastic can significantly impact the feeding of freshwater organisms.

Fionn Murphy, Brian Quinn, Environmental Pollution, Volume 234, March 2018, Pages 487-494

The article


Environmentally relevant microplastic exposure affects sediment-dwelling bivalves

Most microplastics are expected to sink and end up in marine sediments. However, very little is known concerning their potential impact on sediment-dwelling organisms. We studied the long-term impact of microplastic exposure on two sediment-dwelling bivalve species. Ennucula tenuis and Abra nitida were exposed to polyethylene microparticles at three concentrations (1; 10 and 25 mg/kg of sediment) for four weeks. Three size classes (4–6; 20–25 and 125–500 μm) were used to study the influence of size on microplastic ecotoxicity. Microplastic exposure did not affect survival, condition index or burrowing behaviour in either bivalve species. However, significant changes in energy reserves were observed. No changes were observed in protein, carbohydrate or lipid contents in E. tenuis, with the exception of a decrease in lipid content for one condition. However, total energy decreased in a dose-dependent manner for bivalves exposed to the largest particles. To the contrary, no significant changes in total energy were observed for A. nitida, although a significant decrease of protein content was observed for individuals exposed to the largest particles, at all concentrations. Concentration and particle size significantly influenced microplastic impacts on bivalves, the largest particles and higher concentrations leading to more severe effects. Several hypotheses are presented to explain the observed modulation of energy reserves, including the influence of microplastic size and concentration. Our results suggest that long-term exposure to microplastics at environmentally relevant concentrations can impact marine benthic biota.

Agathe Bour, Ane Haarr, Steffen Keiter, Ketil Hylland and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 652–660

The article

Comparisons of microplastic pollution between mudflats and sandy beaches in Hong Kong

Most of the previous studies of microplastic pollution on coastal habitats focused on high energy beaches although low energy areas such as mudflats are supposed to retain more microplastics, not to mention that mudflats are biologically more diverse. We quantified and characterized microplastics from 10 mudflats and 10 sandy beaches in Hong Kong spanning from the eastern to western waters. Sediment samples were collected at 1.0 m and 1.5 m above chart datum (CD) and at the strandline. Abundance of microplastics ranged between 0.58 and 2116 items kg−1 sediment with that on mudflats being ten times more than on beaches. Polyethylene (46.9%) was the most abundant and followed by polypropylene (13.8%) and polyethylene terephthalate (13.5%). Expanded polystyrene was the most abundant in the strandline samples but not at 1.0 m and 1.5 m above CD. Although previous studies have concluded that the input from Pearl River is a major source of microplastics on Hong Kong shores, this study has demonstrated that the contribution of local pollution sources such as discharge from sewage treatment plants to microplastic pollution should not be neglected.

Hoi-Shing Lo, Xiaoyu Xu, Chun-Yuen Wong, Siu-Gin Cheung, Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 208–217

The article

Sorption behaviors of phenanthrene on the microplastics identified in a mariculture farm in Xiangshan Bay, southeastern China

Recently, with the accumulation of evidence that microplastic can be ingested by a variety of marine organisms, microplastic sorption behaviors towards organic contaminants (OCs) have become the subject of more studies due to the concerns about the contaminant vector effect. In this study, the priority microplastics identified in a mariculture farm in Xiangshan Bay, China, including polyethylene (PE) and nylon fibers (i.e., derived from new fishing ropes and nets), were examined for their sorption behaviors. The results indicate that both plastic fibers show linear isotherms towards phenanthrene, a common target hydrophobic organic contaminant (HOC), revealing the characteristics of a partitioning mechanism. The sorption capacity of PE fiber was found to be 1–2 orders of magnitude higher (evaluated by Freundlich parameter log KF) than that of nylon fiber, suggesting the importance of plastic surface functional groups (i.e., with or without hydrophilic groups). By comparing carbon normalized log KF with literature data, the organic affinity of PE fiber was found to be 1–2 orders of magnitude lower than that of vectors, such as carbonaceous geosorbents (CG), but was 1–2 orders of magnitude higher than that of marine sediments. Small size and rough surface tended to enhance the sorption of plastic fibers of phenanthrene. In addition, phenol (log KOW: 1.46), a low-hydrophobicity compound, showed approximately 3 orders of magnitude lower sorption amounts onto both fibers compared to phenanthrene (log KOW: 4.46), indicating the selectivity of hydrophobicity. The results of this study demonstrate that the high abundance of plastic fibers distributed in mariculture farms could lead to a higher contaminant transfer effect than marine sediments, and their effects on cultured seafood (e.g., crab and fish) need further investigation.

Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 628–629, 1 July 2018, Pages 1617–1626
Zheng Wang, Minglong Chen, Liwen Zhang and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 628–629, 1 July 2018, Pages 1617–1626

Weathering impacts the uptake of polyethylene microparticles from toothpaste in Mediterranean mussels (M. galloprovincialis)

Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) were exposed over 21 days to polyethylene (PE) particles (0.01 mg ml−1; 50–570 μm) isolated from toothpaste. PE was deployed in the Outer Oslofjord (Norway) for 21 days, before exposing the mussels to both virgin (PE-V) and weathered PE (PE-W) particles. The mussels ingested both types of particles, but significantly more weathered particles were ingested than virgin (p = .0317), based on PE dosed by weight (mg ml−1) but not when considering particle number (PE-V: 1.18 ± 0.16 particles ml−1; PE-W 1.86 ± 0.66 particles ml-1;). PE particle ingestion resulted in structural changes to the gills and digestive gland, as well as necrosis in other tissues such as the mantle. No differences were found regarding the degree of tissue alteration between PE-virgin and PE-weathered exposures. This current study illustrates the importance of using weathered particles in microplastic exposure studies to reflect the behaviour of plastic particles after entering the marine environment. The observed tissue alterations demonstrate the potential adverse effects to mussels exposed to microplastic particles.

Inger Lise N. Brate, Mercedes Blazquez, Steven J. Brooks, Kevin V. Thomas, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 626, 1 June 2018, Pages 1310–1318

The article

Detection of nanoplastics in food by asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation coupled to multi-angle light scattering: possibilities, challenges and analytical limitations

We tested the suitability of asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation (AF4) coupled to multi-angle light scattering (MALS) for detection of nanoplastics in fish. A homogenized fish sample was spiked with 100 nm polystyrene nanoparticles (PSNPs) (1.3 mg/g fish). Two sample preparation strategies were tested: acid digestion and enzymatic digestion with proteinase K. Both procedures were found suitable for degradation of the organic matrix. However, acid digestion resulted in large PSNPs aggregates/agglomerates (> 1 μm). The presence of large particulates was not observed after enzymatic digestion, and consequently it was chosen as a sample preparation method. The results demonstrated that it was possible to use AF4 for separating the PSNPs from the digested fish and to determine their size by MALS. The PSNPs could be easily detected by following their light scattering (LS) signal with a limit of detection of 52 μg/g fish. The AF4-MALS method could also be exploited for another type of nanoplastics in solution, namely polyethylene (PE). However, it was not possible to detect the PE particles in fish, due to the presence of an elevated LS background. Our results demonstrate that an analytical method developed for a certain type of nanoplastics may not be directly applicable to other types of nanoplastics and may require further adjustment. This work describes for the first time the detection of nanoplastics in a food matrix by AF4-MALS. Despite the current limitations, this is a promising methodology for detecting nanoplastics in food and in experimental studies (e.g., toxicity tests, uptake studies).

Manuel Correia, Katrin Loeschner, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, pp 1–13,

The article

Uptake and depuration kinetics influence microplastic bioaccumulation and toxicity in Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba)

The discarding of plastic products has led to the ubiquitous occurrence of microplastic particles in the marine environment. The uptake and depuration kinetics of ingested microplastics for many marine species still remain unknown despite its importance for understanding bioaccumulation potential to higher trophic level consumers. In this study, Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) were exposed to polyethylene microplastics in order to quantify acute toxicity and ingestion kinetics, providing insight into the bioaccumulation potential of microplastics at the first-order consumer level. In the 10 day acute toxicity assay, no mortality or dose dependant weight loss occurred in exposed krill, at any of the exposure concentrations (0, 10, 20, 40, or 80 % plastic diet). Krill exposed to a 20% plastic diet for 24 hours displayed fast uptake (22 ng mg-1 h-1) and depuration (0.22 h-1) rates, but plastic uptake did not reach steady state. Efficient elimination also resulted in no bioaccumulation over an extended 25 day assay, with most individuals completely eliminating their microplastic burden in less than 5 days post exposure. Our results support recent findings of limited acute toxicity of ingested microplastics at this trophic level, and suggest sublethal chronic endpoints should be the focus of further ecotoxicological investigation.

Amanda Dawson, Wilhelmina Huston, So Kawaguchi, Catherine King, Roger Cropp, Seanan Wild, Pascale Eisenmann, Kathy Townsend, and Susan Bengtson Nash, Environ. Sci. Technol., Volume 52, Issue 5, Page 3195-3201, March 6, 2018