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.
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
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.
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)
To understand the fate and impacts of microplastics (MP) in the marine ecosystems, it is essential to investigate their interactions with phytoplankton as these may affect MP bioavailability to marine organisms as well as their fate in the water column. However, the behaviour of MP with marine phytoplanktonic cells remains little studied and thus unpredictable. The present study assessed the potential for phytoplankton cells to form hetero-aggregates with small micro-polystyrene (micro-PS) particles depending on microalgal species and physiological status. A prymnesiophycea, Tisochrysis lutea, a dinoflagellate, Heterocapsa triquetra, and a diatom, Chaetoceros neogracile, were exposed to micro-PS (2 μm diameter; 3.96 μg L−1) during their growth culture cycles. Micro-PS were quantified using an innovative flow-cytometry approach, which allowed the monitoring of the micro-PS repartition in microalgal cultures and the distinction between free suspended micro-PS and hetero-aggregates of micro-PS and microalgae. Hetero-aggregation was observed for C. neogracile during the stationary growth phase. The highest levels of micro-PS were “lost” from solution, sticking to flasks, with T. lutea and H. triquetra cultures. This loss of micro-PS sticking to the flask walls increased with the age of the culture for both species. No effects of micro-PS were observed on microalgal physiology in terms of growth and chlorophyll fluorescence. Overall, these results highlight the potential for single phytoplankton cells and residual organic matter to interact with microplastics, and thus potentially influence their distribution and bioavailability in experimental systems and the water column.
Marc Long, Ika Paul-Pont, Hélène Hégaret, Brivaela Moriceau, Christophe Lambert, Arnaud Huvet, Philippe Soudant, Environmental Pollution, Volume 228, September 2017, Pages 454–463
Microplastic fibers make up a large proportion of microplastics found in the environment, especially in urban areas. There is good reason to consider synthetic textiles a major source of microplastic fibers and it will not diminish since the use of synthetic fabrics, especially polyester, continues to increase. In this study we provide quantitative data regarding the size and mass of microplastic fibers released from synthetic (polyester) textiles during simulated home washing under controlled laboratory conditions. Consideration of fabric structure, washing conditions (use of detergents, temperature, wash duration, sequential washings) allowed us to study the propensity of fiber shedding in a mechanistic way. Thousands of individual fibers were measured (number, length) from each wash solution to provide a robust data set on which to draw conclusions. Among all the variables tested, the use of detergent appeared to affect the total mass of fibers released the most, yet the detergent composition (liquid or powder) or overdosing of detergent did not significantly influence microplastic release. Despite different release quantities due to the addition of a surfactant (approximately 0.025 and 0.1 mg fibers/g textile washed, without and with detergent, respectively), the overall microplastic fiber length profile remained similar regardless of wash condition or fabric structure, with the vast majority of fibers ranging between 100 m and 800 m in length irrespective of wash cycle number. This indicates that the fiber staple length and/or debris encapsulated inside the fabric from the yarn spinning could be directly responsible for releasing stray fibers. This study serves as a first look towards understanding the physical properties of the textile itself to better understand the mechanisms of fiber shedding in the context of microplastic fiber release into laundry wash water.
Edgar Hernandez, Bernd Nowack, Denise M. Mitrano, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2017, 51 (12), pp 7036–7046
The occurrence of microplastics (MPs) in saltwater bodies is relatively well studied, but nothing is known about their presence in most of the commercial salts that are widely consumed by humans across the globe. Here, we extracted MP-like particles larger than 149 μm from 17 salt brands originating from 8 different countries followed by the identification of their polymer composition using micro-Raman spectroscopy. Microplastics were absent in one brand while others contained between 1 to 10 MPs/Kg of salt. Out of the 72 extracted particles, 41.6% were plastic polymers, 23.6% were pigments, 5.50% were amorphous carbon, and 29.1% remained unidentified. The particle size (mean ± SD) was 515 ± 171 μm. The most common plastic polymers were polypropylene (40.0%) and polyethylene (33.3%). Fragments were the primary form of MPs (63.8%) followed by filaments (25.6%) and films (10.6%). According to our results, the low level of anthropogenic particles intake from the salts (maximum 37 particles per individual per annum) warrants negligible health impacts. However, to better understand the health risks associated with salt consumption, further development in extraction protocols are needed to isolate anthropogenic particles smaller than 149 μm.
Ali Karami, Abolfazl Golieskardi, Cheng Keong Choo, Vincent Larat, Tamara S. Gallowa & Babak Salamatinia, Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 46173 (2017)