Microplastic contamination in benthic organisms from the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions

The seafloor is recognized as one of the major sinks for microplastics (MPs). However, to date there have been no studies reported the MP contamination in benthic organisms from the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Therefore, this study provided the first data on the abundances and characteristics of MPs in a total of 413 dominant benthic organisms representing 11 different species inhabiting in the shelf of Bering and Chukchi Seas. The mean abundances of MP uptake by the benthos from all sites ranged from 0.02 to 0.46 items g−1 wet weight (ww) or 0.04–1.67 items individual−1, which were lower values than those found in other regions worldwide. The highest value appeared at the northernmost site, implying that the sea ice and the cold current represent possible transport mediums. Interestingly, the predator A. rubens ingested the maximum quantities of MPs, suggesting that the trophic transfer of MPs through benthic food webs may play a critical role. Fibers constituted the major type (87%) in each species, followed by film (13%). The colors of fibers were classified as red (46%) and transparent (41%), and the film was all gray. The predominant composition was polyamide (PA) (46%), followed by polyethylene (PE) (23%), polyester (PET) (18%) and cellophane (CP) (13%). The most common sizes of MPs concentrated in the interval from 0.10 to 1.50 mm, and the mean size was 1.45 ± 0.13 mm. Further studies about the temporal trends and detrimental effects of MPs remain to be carried out in benthic organisms from the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.

Chao Fang, Ronghui Zheng, Yusheng Zhang and al., Chemosphere, Volume 209, October 2018, Pages 298–306

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Occurrence of microplastics in commercial fish from a natural estuarine environment

Microplastic ingestion has been reported for several marine species, but the level of contamination in transitional systems and associated biota is less known. The aim of this study was to assess the occurrence of microplastic ingestion in three commercial fish species: the sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), the seabream (Diplodus vulgaris) and the flounder (Platichthys flesus) from the Mondego estuary (Portugal). Microplastics were extracted from the gastrointestinal tract of 120 individuals by visual inspection and digestion solution. A total of 157 particles were extracted from 38% of total fish (96% fibers), with 1.67 ± 0.27 (SD) microplastics per fish. Significantly higher amount of ingested microplastics was recorded for D. vulgaris (73%). The dominant polymers identified by μ-FTIR were polyester, polypropylene and rayon (semi-synthetic fiber). It is reported for the first time the presence of this pollutant in fish populations from the Mondego estuary raising concerns on their potential negative effects.

Filipa Bessa, Pablo Barría, João M. Neto and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 128, March 2018, Pages 575–584

The article

Threat of plastic ageing in marine environment. Adsorption/desorption of micropollutants

Ageing of various plastics in marine environment was monitored after immersion of two synthetic (polyvinylchloride, PVC, and polyethylene terephthalate, PET) and one biodegradable (poly(butylene adipate co-terephtalate), PBAT) plastics for 502 days in the bay of Lorient (Brittany, France). Data analysis indicates that aged PVC rapidly releases estrogenic compounds in seawater with a later adsorption of heavy metals; PET undergoes a low weakening of the surface whereas no estrogenic activity is detected; PBAT ages faster in marine environment than PVC. Aged PBAT exhibits heterogeneous surface with some cavities likely containing clay minerals from the chlorite group. Besides, this degraded material occasionally shows a high estrogenic activity. Overall, this study reports, for the first time, that some aged plastics, without being cytotoxic, can release estrogenic compounds in marine environment.

Mikaël Kedzierski, Mélanie D’Almeida, Anthony Magueresse and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 127, February 2018, Pages 684-694

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Ingestion of microplastics by freshwater Tubifex worms

Microplastic contamination of the aquatic environment is a global issue. Microplastics can be ingested by organisms leading to negative physiological impacts. The ingestion of microplastics by freshwater invertebrates has not been reported outside the laboratory. Here we demonstrate the ingestion of microplastic particles by Tubifex tubifex in a major urban waterbody fed by the River Irwell, Manchester, UK. The host sediments had microplastic concentrations ranging from 56 to 2544 particles kg-1. 87% of the Tubifex ingested microplastic particles were microfibres (55 – 4100 µm in length), whilst the remaining 13% were fragments (50 – 4500 µm in length). FT-IR analysis revealed ingestion of a range of polymers, including polyethylene terephthalate (polyester) and acrylic fibres. Whilst microbeads were present in the host sediment matrix, they were not detected in Tubifex worm tissue. However, there was limited selectivity in the ingestion of microplastics within the fragment or fiber subtypes. The mean concentration of ingested microplastics was 129 ± 65.4 particles g-1 tissue. We also show that Tubifex worms retain microplastics longer than other components of the ingested sediment matrix. Microplastic ingestion by Tubifex worms poses a significant risk for trophic transfer and biomagnification of microplastics up the aquatic food chain.

Rachel R Hurley, Jamie C Woodward, and James J. Rothwell, Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript, October 11, 2017

Pervasive plastisphere: First record of plastics in egagropiles (Posidonia spheroids)

The ability of Posidonia oceanica spheroids (egagropiles, EG) to incorporate plastics was investigated along the central Italy coast. Plastics were found in the 52.84% of the egagropiles collected (n = 685). The more represented size of plastics has range within 1–1.5 cm, comparable to the size of natural fibres. Comparing plastics occurring both in EG and in surrounding sand, Polyethylene, Polyester and Nylon were the most abundant polymers in EG, while PSE, PE, PP and PET were the most represented in sand. In particular PE and PP were significantly more represented in sand, while PE, Nylon, Polyester and microfibers (as pills) were more represented in EG. Within plastics found in EG, 26.9% were microfibers as small pills (<1 cm), mainly composed of polyamide, polyester, cotton and PET mixing. These microfibers might be produced by discharges from washing machines and currently represents an emerging pollutant with widespread distribution in marine and freshwater ecosystems.

L. Pietrelli, A. Di Gennaro, P. Menegoni and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 229, October 2017, Pages 1032-1036

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Release of polyester and cotton fibers from textiles in machine washings

Microplastics are widely spread in the environment, which along with still increasing production have aroused concern of their impacts on environmental health. The objective of this study is to quantify the number and mass of two most common textile fibers discharged from sequential machine washings to sewers. The number and mass of microfibers released from polyester and cotton textiles in the first wash varied in the range 2.1 × 105 to 1.3 × 107 and 0.12 to 0.33% w/w, respectively. Amounts of released microfibers showed a decreasing trend in sequential washes. The annual emission of polyester and cotton microfibers from household washing machines was estimated to be 154,000 (1.0 × 1014) and 411,000 kg (4.9 × 1014) in Finland (population 5.5 × 106). Due to the high emission values and sorption capacities, the polyester and cotton microfibers may play an important role in the transport and fate of chemical pollutants in the aquatic environment.

Markus SillanpääPirjo Sainio, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1–9, July, 01, 2017

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Microplastics shedding from polyester fabrics

To minimize microplastics from polyester fabrics getting in the ocean, and posing a threat to the marine environment, the production design of polyester fabrics needs to change. Mistra Future Fashion now release new findings where their researchers and industry partners have investigated the relation between fabric properties and shedding for polyester fabrics, and thereby contribute to fill current research gap. (…) (Mistra Future Fashion, 15/06/2017)

The report