Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of Italian Subalpine Lakes

Plastic debris incidence in marine environment was already highlighted in the early 1970s. Over the last decade, microplastic pollution in the environment has received increasing attention and is now an emerging research area. Many studies have focused on quantifying microplastic abundance in the marine environment, while there are relatively few data on microplastic occurrence in freshwater environment. Recent studies have reported high concentrations of microplastics in lakes and rivers, although the understanding of several factors influencing source, transport and fate is still limited. This study compares different lakes and the common factors, which could influence the occurrence and distribution of microplastics. The three subalpine lakes monitored include Lake Maggiore, Iseo and Garda. The selected sampling transects reflect the hydrologic conditions, the morphometric characteristics of these lakes, and other factors influencing the release of plastics debris in lakes. Particles of microplastics (<5 mm) were found in all sampled surfaces. The particles collected were classified depending on their number, shape and composition. The shape distribution showed the dominating occurrence of fragments (73.7%). The chemical composition of all examined samples clearly shows dominating presence of polyethylene (45%), polystyrene (18%) and polypropylene (15%). The results provide significant relations among the different contribution of direct and diffuse sources to the quantity of microplastics, highlighting the importance of understanding the spatial distribution dynamics of microplastics within a lake system that acts as a sink and source of plastic particles.

Maria Sighicelli, Loris Pietrelli, Francesca Lecce and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 645–651

The article


A workflow for improving estimates of microplastic contamination in marine waters: A case study from North-Western Australia


We present an analysis workflow tailored to quantifying microplastic contamination.
It outlines a consistent and sequential process for analysis and decision making.
We apply the workflow to marine tow samples from remote North-Western Australia.
Spectroscopy refutes plastic origin of >60% of particles first identified visually.
The workflow will provide more realistic and comparable contamination estimates.

Frederieke Kroon, Cherie Motti, Sam Talbot, Paula Sobral, Marji Puotinen, Environmental Pollution, Volume 238, July 2018, Pages 26–38

The article

Evaluation of uptake and chronic toxicity of virgin polystyrene microbeads in freshwater zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha (Mollusca: Bivalvia)

Microplastics (MPs), plastic debris smaller than 5 mm, are widely found in both marine and freshwater ecosystems. However, few studies regarding their hazardous effects on inland water organisms, have been conducted. For this reason, the aim of our research was the evaluation of uptake and chronic toxicity of two mixtures (MIXs) of virgin polystyrene microbeads (PMs) of 10 μm and 1 μm in size (MIX 1, with 5 × 105 of 1 μm size PMs/L and 5 × 105 of 10 μm size PMs/L, and MIX 2 with 2 × 106 of 1 μm size PMs/L and 2 × 106 of 10 μm size PMs/L) on freshwater zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha (Mollusca: Bivalvia) during 6 exposure days. The PM uptake in the mussel body and hemolymph was assessed using confocal microscopy, while the chronic toxicity of PMs was evaluated on exposed mussels using a comprehensive battery of biomarkers of cellular stress, oxidative damage and neuro- genotoxicity. Confocal microscopy analyses showed that MPs concentrated in the gut lumen of exposed mussels, absorbed and transferred firstly in the tissues and then in the hemolymph. The results revealed that PMs do not produce oxidative stress and genetic damage, with the exception of a significant modulation of catalase and glutathione peroxidase activities in mussels exposed to MIX 1. Regarding neurotoxicity, we observed only a significant increase of dopamine concentration in mussels exposed to both MIXs, suggesting a possible implication of this neurotransmitter in an elimination process of accumulated PMs. This research represents a first study about the evaluation of virgin MP toxicity in zebra mussel and more research is warranted concerning the long term neurological effects of virgin MPs.

Stefano Magni, François Gagné, Chantale André and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 631–632, 1 August 2018, Pages 778–788

The article

Characterization of microplastic litter from oceans by an innovative approach based on hyperspectral imaging

An innovative approach, based on HyperSpectral Imaging (HSI), was developed in order to set up an efficient method to analyze marine microplastic litter. HSI was applied to samples collected by surface-trawling plankton nets from several parts of the world (i.e. Arctic, Mediterranean, South Atlantic and North Pacific). Reliable information on abundance, size, shape and polymer type for the whole ensemble of plastic particles in each sample was retrieved from single hyperspectral images. The simultaneous characterization of the polymeric composition of the plastic debris represents an important analytical advantage considering that this information, and even the validation of the plastic nature of the small debris, is a common flaw in the analysis of marine microplastic pollution. HSI was revealed as a rapid, non-invasive, non-destructive and reliable technology for the characterization of the microplastic waste, opening a promising way for improving the plastic pollution monitoring.

Silvia Serranti, Roberta Palmieri, Giuseppe Bonifazi, Andrés Cózar, Waste Management, Available online 5 March 2018, In Press

The article

Assessment of debris inputs from land into the river in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area, China

Riverine debris in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area (TGRA) poses a threat to electricity generation, ship navigation, and water environment. Quantifying riverine debris inputs from land into the river is a foundation for modeling of the transport and accumulation of floating debris on the water surface in the TGRA. However, this has not been researched to date. In this study, debris inputs from land into the river in the TGRA were assessed according to the response relationship between debris inputs and surface runoff. The land-based debris inputs in the TGRA were estimated using simulated surface runoff which was simulated by the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model. Results showed that 15.32 × 106 kg of land-based debris was inputted into the main channel of the TGRA in 2015 which accounted for 9.74% of total debris inputs (the monitoring data of river-sourced and land-sourced debris inputs was 157.27 × 106 kg). Debris inputs varied seasonally and peaked in the summer season (July to September). Compared with monthly measured data, the average relative errors in 2015 were below 30%. In addition, areas with higher debris pollution inputs were mainly located in the upper section of the TGRA, between the Tang River Basin and the Long River Basin. The proposed method was tested and determined to be reliable; thus, it can be used to quickly estimate debris inputs from land into the river by surface runoff of the outlets in a river basin. Moreover, this method provides new insight into the estimation of land-based debris inputs into rivers.

Jing Wan, Yonggui Wang, Meiling Cheng, Bernard A. Engel, Wanshun Zhang, Hong Peng, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, , Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 5539–5549

The article

Plastic ingestion by juvenile polar cod (Boreogadus saida) in the Arctic Ocean

One of the recently recognised stressors in Arctic ecosystems concerns plastic litter. In this study, juvenile polar cod (Boreogadus saida) were investigated for the presence of plastics in their stomachs. Polar cod is considered a key species in the Arctic ecosystem. The fish were collected both directly from underneath the sea ice in the Eurasian Basin and in open waters around Svalbard. We analysed the stomachs of 72 individuals under a stereo microscope. Two stomachs contained non-fibrous microplastic particles. According to µFTIR analysis, the particles consisted of epoxy resin and a mix of Kaolin with polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Fibrous objects were excluded from this analysis to avoid bias due to contamination with airborne micro-fibres. A systematic investigation of the risk for secondary micro-fibre contamination during analytical procedures showed that precautionary measures in all procedural steps are critical. Based on the two non-fibrous objects found in polar cod stomachs, our results show that ingestion of microplastic particles by this ecologically important fish species is possible. With increasing human activity, plastic ingestion may act as an increasing stressor on polar cod in combination with ocean warming and sea-ice decline in peripheral regions of the Arctic Ocean. To fully assess the significance of this stressor and its spatial and temporal variability, future studies must apply a rigorous approach to avoid secondary pollution.

Susanne Kühn, Fokje L. Schaafsma, Bernike van Werven, Hauke Flores, Melanie Bergmann, Marion Egelkraut-Holtus, Mine B. Tekman, Jan A. van Franeker, Polar Biology, pp 1–10,

The article

Mitigation measures to avert the impacts of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment (a review)

The increasing demand for and reliance on plastics as an everyday item, and rapid rise in their production and subsequent indiscriminate disposal, rise in human population and industrial growth, have made the material an important environmental concern and focus of interest of many research. Historically, plastic production has increased tremendously to over 250 million tonnes by 2009 with an annual increased rate of 9%. In 2015, the global consumption of plastic materials was reported to be > 300 million tonnes and is expected to surge exponentially. Because plastic polymers are ubiquitous, highly resistant to degradation, the influx of these persistent, complex materials is a risk to human and environmental health. Because microplastics are principally generated from the weathering or breakdown of larger plastics (macroplastics), it is noteworthy and expedient to discuss in detail, expatiate, and tackle this main source. Macro- and microplastic pollution has been reported on a global scale from the poles to the equator. The major problem of concern is that they strangulate and are ingested by a number of aquatic biota especially the filter feeders, such as molluscs, mussels, oysters, from where it enters the food chain and consequently could lead to physical and toxicological effects on aquatic organisms and human being as final consumers. To this end, in order to minimise the negative impacts posed by plastic pollution (macro- and microplastics), a plethora of strategies have been developed at various levels to reduce and manage the plastic wastes. The objective of this paper is to review some published literature on management measures of plastic wastes to curb occurrence and incidents of large- and microplastics pollution in the marine environments.

Oluniyi Solomon Ogunola, Olawale Ahmed Onada, Augustine Eyiwunmi Falaye, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1-18,

The article