Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine ecosystem and human health: a short review

Human populations are using oceans as their household dustbins, and microplastic is one of the components which are not only polluting shorelines but also freshwater bodies globally. Microplastics are generally referred to particles with a size lower than 5 mm. These microplastics are tiny plastic granules and used as scrubbers in cosmetics, hand cleansers, air-blasting. These contaminants are omnipresent within almost all marine environments at present. The durability of plastics makes it highly resistant to degradation and through indiscriminate disposal they enter in the aquatic environment. Today, it is an issue of increasing scientific concern because these microparticles due to their small size are easily accessible to a wide range of aquatic organisms and ultimately transferred along food web. The chronic biological effects in marine organisms results due to accumulation of microplastics in their cells and tissues. The potential hazardous effects on humans by alternate ingestion of microparticles can cause alteration in chromosomes which lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. Because of the recent threat of microplastics to marine biota as well as on human health, it is important to control excessive use of plastic additives and to introduce certain legislations and policies to regulate the sources of plastic litter. By setup various plastic recycling process or promoting plastic awareness programmes through different social and information media, we will be able to clean our sea dustbin in future.

Shivika Sharma, Subhankar Chatterjee, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, , Volume 24, Issue 27, pp 21530–21547

The article


Recovering microplastics from marine samples: A review of current practices

An important component of microplastic research is development of reproducible methods for microplastic recovery and characterization. Presented is a review of the literature comparing microplastic separation and identification methodologies from seawater, sediment and marine organisms. The efficiency of methods was examined, including processing time, recovery rates, and potential destruction of microplastics. Visual examination and acid digestion were the most common separation methods for seawater samples and organisms, while density flotation was the primary method for sediment. Few studies reported recovery rates, or investigated the physical or chemical impact on plastics. This knowledge gap may lead to misidentification of plastic or unreliable pollution estimates. Further investigation of the impact chemical treatments have on plastic is warranted. Factors, i.e. biomass loading, recovery rates, and chemical compatibility, must be considered to allow for appropriate methodology. Standardizing this will contribute to efficient sample processing, and allow for direct comparison of microplastic contamination across environments.

M. E. Miller, F. J. Kroon, C. A. Motti, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 6 September 2017, In Press

The article

Widespread detection of a brominated flame retardant, hexabromocyclododecane, in expanded polystyrene marine debris and microplastics from South Korea and the Asia-Pacific coastal region

The role of marine plastic debris and microplastics as a carrier of hazardous chemicals in the marine environment is an emerging issue. This study investigated expanded polystyrene (EPS, commonly known as styrofoam) debris, which is a common marine debris item worldwide, and its additive chemical, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). To obtain a better understanding of chemical dispersion via EPS pollution in the marine environment, intensive monitoring of HBCD levels in EPS debris and microplastics was conducted in South Korea, where EPS is the predominant marine debris originate mainly from fishing and aquaculture buoys. At the same time, EPS debris were collected from 12 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and HBCD concentrations were measured. HBCD was detected extensively in EPS buoy debris and EPS microplastics stranded along the Korean coasts, which might be related to the detection of a quantity of HBCD in non-flame-retardant EPS bead (raw material). The wide detection of the flame retardant in sea-floating buoys, and the recycling of high-HBCD-containing EPS waste inside large buoys highlight the need for proper guidelines for the production and use of EPS raw materials, and the recycling of EPS waste. HBCD was also abundantly detected in EPS debris collected from the Asia-Pacific coastal region, indicating that HBCD contamination via EPS debris is a common environmental issue worldwide. Suspected tsunami debris from Alaskan beaches indicated that EPS debris has the potential for long-range transport in the ocean, accompanying the movement of hazardous chemicals. The results of this study indicate that EPS debris can be a source of HBCD in marine environments and marine food web.

Mi Jang, Won Joon Shim, Gi Myung Han and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 231, Part 1, December 2017, Pages 785-794

The article

Microplastics as a vector for the transport of the bacterial fish pathogen species Aeromonas salmonicida

Microplastics is widespread in the marine environment where it can cause numerous negative effects. It can provide space for the growth of organisms and serves as a vector for the long distance transfer of marine microorganisms. In this study, we examined the sea surface concentrations of microplastics in the North Adriatic and characterized bacterial communities living on the microplastics. DNA from microplastics particles was isolated by three different methods, followed by PCR amplification of 16S rDNA, clone libraries preparation and phylogenetic analysis. 28 bacterial species were identified on the microplastics particles including Aeromonas spp. and hydrocarbon-degrading bacterial species. Based on the 16S rDNA sequences the pathogenic fish bacteria Aeromonas salmonicida was identified for the first time on microplastics. Because A. salmonicida is responsible for illnesses in fish, it is crucial to get answers if and how microplastics pollution is responsible for spreading of diseases.

Manca Kovač Viršek, Marija Nika Lovšin, Špela Koren, Andrej Kržan, Monika Peterlin, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 7 September 2017, In Press

The article

Marine litter in the Nordic Seas: Distribution composition and abundance

Litter has been found in all marine environments and is accumulating in seabirds and mammals in the Nordic Seas. These ecosystems are under pressure from climatic change and fisheries while the human population is small. The marine landscapes in the area range from shallow fishing banks to deep-sea canyons. We present density, distribution and composition of litter from the first large-scale mapping of sea bed litter in arctic and subarctic waters. Litter was registered from 1778 video transects, of which 27% contained litter. The background density of litter in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea is 202 and 279 items/km2 respectively, and highest densities were found close to coast and in canyons. Most of the litter originated from the fishing industry and plastic was the second most common litter. Background levels were comparable to European records and areas with most littering had higher densities than in Europe.

Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Pål Buhl-Mortensen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 31 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

The article

New Study Reveals Global Water Supply Contaminated by Microplastic Fibers

Microplastics — extremely small pieces (less than 5 mm) of plastic debris resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste — have been found in tap water around the globe, according to a new report by Orb Media, a D.C.-based nonprofit digital newsroom. The discovery has led to a call from the scientific community for urgent research on microplastics’ implications for human health.

Designed by Dr. Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia and Elizabeth Wattenberg at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, the tap water study screened 159 half liter drinking water samples from 14 countries: Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Slovakia, Switzerland, Uganda, the UK and the US. Overall, 83 percent of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibers.

European countries demonstrated the lowest level of contamination, though this was still 72 percent. The average number of microplastics found in each 500ml sample ranged from 1.9 in Europe to 4.8 in the US. (…) (sustainablebrands.com, 11/09/2017, Orb media)

The news

Orb media – Invisibles plastics

Chemoreception drives plastic consumption in a hard coral

The drivers behind microplastic (up to 5 mm in diameter) consumption by animals are uncertain and impacts on foundational species are poorly understood. We investigated consumption of weathered, unfouled, biofouled, pre-production and microbe-free National Institute of Standards plastic by a scleractinian coral that relies on chemosensory cues for feeding. Experiment one found that corals ingested many plastic types while mostly ignoring organic-free sand, suggesting that plastic contains phagostimulents. Experiment two found that corals ingested more plastic that wasn’t covered in a microbial biofilm than plastics that were biofilmed. Additionally, corals retained ~ 8% of ingested plastic for 24 h or more and retained particles appeared stuck in corals, with consequences for energetics, pollutant toxicity and trophic transfer. The potential for chemoreception to drive plastic consumption in marine taxa has implications for conservation.

A. S. Allen, A. C. Seymour, D. Rittschof, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 22 July 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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