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

Microplastics are polluting Lake Winnebago’s fish

A new study is raising concerns about the safety of eating fish from Lake Winnebago.

The research reveals tiny pieces of plastic are skirting the wastewater treatment process to end up in the lake, where they can soak up toxins and are likely being consumed by fish.

Experts say there’s a potential danger that those toxins could be passed on to people who consume fish from the lake.

“It’s definitely a concern,” said Kelly Reyer, outreach coordinator for the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance. “It can go through the food chain and potentially harm the ecosystem as well as public health because of people consuming the fish.”

Plastic microbeads had previously been found in the Great Lakes, prompting state legislation to phase out products that contain them, but experts didn’t know whether they were in Lake Winnebago or other inland waters. (…) (usatoday.com, 10/07/2017)

The news

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in plastic products, indoor dust, sediment and fish from informal e-waste recycling sites in Vietnam: a comprehensive assessment of contamination, accumulation pattern, emissions, and human exposure

Residue concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in different kinds of samples including consumer products, indoor dust, sediment and fish collected from two e-waste recycling sites, and some industrial, urban and suburban areas in Vietnam were determined to provide a comprehensive assessment of the contamination levels, accumulation pattern, emission potential and human exposure through dust ingestion and fish consumption. There was a large variation of PBDE levels in plastic parts of obsolete electronic equipment (from 1730 to 97,300 ng/g), which is a common result observed in consumer plastic products reported elsewhere. PBDE levels in indoor dust samples collected from e-waste recycling sites ranged from 250 to 8740 ng/g, which were markedly higher than those in industrial areas and household offices. Emission rate of PBDEs from plastic parts of disposed electronic equipment to dust was estimated to be in a range from 3.4 × 10−7 to 1.2 × 10−5 (year−1) for total PBDEs and from 2.9 × 10−7 to 7.2 × 10−6 (year−1) for BDE-209. Some fish species collected from ponds in e-waste recycling villages contained elevated levels of PBDEs, especially BDE-209, which were markedly higher than those in fish previously reported. Overall, levels and patterns of PBDE accumulation in different kinds of samples suggest significant emission from e-waste sites and that these areas are potential sources of PBDE contamination. Intakes of PBDEs via fish consumption were generally higher than those estimated through dust ingestion. Intake of BDE-99 and BDE-209 through dust ingestion contributes a large proportion due to higher concentrations in dust and fish. Body weight normalized daily intake through dust ingestion estimated for the e-waste recycling sites (0.10–3.46 ng/day/kg body wt.) were in a high range as compared to those reported in other countries. Our results highlight the potential releases of PBDEs from informal recycling activities and the high degree of human exposure and suggest the need for continuous investigations on environmental pollution and toxic impacts of e-waste-related hazardous chemicals.

Hoang Quoc Anh, Vu Duc Nam, Tran Manh Tri, Nguyen Manh Ha, Nguyen Thuy Ngoc, Pham Thi Ngoc Mai, Duong Hong Anh, Nguyen Hung Minh, Nguyen Anh Tuan, Tu Binh Minh, Environmental Geochemistry and Health, August 2017, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 935–954

The article

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

Survey on awareness and attitudes of secondary school students regarding plastic pollution: implications for environmental education and public health in Sharjah city, UAE

Since the industrial revolution in the 1800s, plastic pollution is becoming a global reality. This study aims to assess knowledge and attitude about plastic pollution among secondary school students in Sharjah city, United Arab Emirates. A cross-sectional study was conducted among 400 students in 6 different secondary schools in Sharjah city. Self-administered questionnaires were distributed through probability stratified random sampling method between February and April 2016. Majority of the population understands how harmful plastic wastes are to the environment (85.5%). However, the students’ mean knowledge score was 53%, with females (P < 0.01), grades 11 and 12 (P = 0.024), and students whose mothers were more educated (P = 0.014) being more knowledgeable and inclined towards pro-environmental behavior. Yet, all students showed tendency to be involved in the fighting against this dilemma. Strategies which address deficiencies, provide incentives for change, and assure governmental support along with environmental education are needed to bridge the information gap and enhance opportunities to adopt pro-environmental behaviors.

Hammami, M.B.A., Mohammed, E.Q., Hashem, A.M. and al., Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017)

The article

The occurrence of microplastic contamination in littoral sediments of the Persian Gulf, Iran

Microplastics (MPs; <5 mm) in aquatic environments are an emerging contaminant of concern due to their possible ecological and biological consequences. This study addresses that MP quantification and morphology to assess the abundance, distribution, and polymer types in littoral surface sediments of the Persian Gulf were performed. A two-step method, with precautions taken to avoid possible airborne contamination, was applied to extract MPs from sediments collected at five sites during low tide. MPs were found in 80% of the samples. Across all sites, fiber particles were the most dominate shape (88%), followed by films (11.2%) and fragments (0.8%). There were significant differences in MP particle concentration between sampling sites (p value <0.05). The sediments with the highest numbers of MPs were from sites in the vicinity of highly populated centers and municipal effluent discharges. FTIR analysis showed that polyethylene (PE), nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) were the most abundant polymer types. More than half of the observed MPs (56%) were in the size category of 1–4.7 mm length, with the remaining particles (44%) being in the size range of 10 μm to <1 mm. Compared to literature data from other regions, intertidal sediments in the Persian Gulf cannot be characterized as a hot spot for MP pollution. The present study could, however, provide useful background information for further investigations and management policies to understand the sources, transport, and potential effects on marine life in the Persian Gulf.

Abolfazl Naji, Zinat Esmaili, Sherri A. Mason, A. Dick Vethaak, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1–10, 14 July 2017

The article