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

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Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of the Bohai Sea, China

The ubiquitous presence and persistency of microplastics in aquatic environments is of particular concern because these pollutants represent an increasing threat to marine organisms and ecosystems. An identification of the patterns of microplastic distribution will help to understand the scale of their potential effect on the environment and on organisms. In this study, the occurrence and distribution of microplastics in the Bohai Sea are reported for the first time. We sampled floating microplastics at 11 stations in the Bohai Sea using a 330 μm trawling net in August 2016. The abundance, composition, size, shape and color of collected debris samples were analyzed after pretreatment. The average microplastic concentration was 0.33 ± 0.34 particles/m3. Micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy analysis showed that the main types of microplastics were polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene. As the size of the plastics decreased, the percentage of polypropylene increased, whereas the percentages of polyethylene and polystyrene decreased. Plastic fragments, lines, and films accounted for most of the collected samples. Accumulation at some stations could be associated with transport and retention mechanisms that are linked to wind and the dynamics of the rim current, as well as different sources of the plastics.

Weiwei Zhang, Shoufeng Zhang, Juying Wang, Yan Wang, Jingli Mu, Ping Wang, Xinzhen Lin, Deyi Ma, Environmental Pollution, Volume 231, Part 1, December 2017, Pages 541–548

Comparative ecotoxicity of polystyrene nanoparticles in natural seawater and reconstituted seawater using the rotifer Brachionus plicatilisnano

The impact of nanoplastics using model polystyrene nanoparticles (PS NPs), anionic (PS-COOH) and cationic (PS-NH2), has been investigated on the marine rotifer Brachionus plicatilis, a major component of marine zooplanktonic species. The role of different surface charges in affecting PS NP behaviour and toxicity has been considered in high ionic strength media. To this aim, the selected media were standardized reconstituted seawater (RSW) and natural sea water (NSW), the latter resembling more natural exposure scenarios. Hatched rotifer larvae were exposed for 24 h and 48 h to both PS NPs in the range of 0.5–50 μg/ml using PS NP suspensions made in RSW and NSW. No effects on lethality upon exposure to anionic NPs were observed despite a clear gut retention was evident in all exposed rotifers. On the contrary, cationic NPs caused lethality to rotifer larvae but LC50 values resulted lower in rotifers exposed in RSW (LC50=2.75±0.67 µg/ml) compared to those exposed in NSW (LC50=6.62±0.87 µg/ml). PS NPs showed similar pattern of aggregation in both high ionic strength media (RSW and NSW) but while anionic NPs resulted in large microscale aggregates (Z-average 1109 ± 128 nm and 998±67 nm respectively), cationic NP aggregates were still in nano-size forms (93.99 ± 11.22 nm and 108.3 ± 12.79 nm). Both PDI and Z-potential of PS NPs slightly differed in the two media suggesting a role of their different surface charges in affecting their behaviour and stability. Our findings confirm the role of surface charges in nanoplastic behaviour in salt water media and provide a first evidence of a different toxicity in rotifers using artificial media (RSW) compared to natural one (NSW). Such evidence poses the question on how to select the best medium in standardized ecotoxicity assays in order to properly assess their hazard to marine life in natural environmental scenarios.

L. Manfra, A. Rotini, E. Bergami and al., Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Volume 145, November 2017, Pages 557-563

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Effects of polystyrene microbeads in marine planktonic crustaceans

Plastic debris accumulates in the marine environment, fragmenting into microplastics (MP), causing concern about their potential toxic effects when ingested by marine organisms. The aim of this study was to verify whether 0.1 µm polystyrene beads are likely to trigger lethal and sub-lethal responses in marine planktonic crustaceans. MP build-up, mortality, swimming speed alteration and enzyme activity (cholinesterases, catalase) were investigated in the larval stages of Amphibalanus amphitrite barnacle and of Artemia franciscana brine shrimp exposed to a wide range of MP concentrations (from 0.001 to 10 mg L-1) for 24 and 48 h. The results show that MP were accumulated in crustaceans, without affecting mortality. Swimming activity was significantly altered in crustaceans exposed to high MP concentrations (> 1 mg L-1) after 48 h. Enzyme activities were significantly affected in all organisms exposed to all the above MP concentrations, indicating that neurotoxic effects and oxidative stress were induced after MP treatment. These findings provide new insight into sub-lethal MP effects on marine crustaceans.

Chiara Gambardella, Silvia Morgana, Sara Ferrando and al., Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Volume 145, November 2017, Pages 250-257

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Releasing of hexabromocyclododecanes from expanded polystyrenes in seawater -field and laboratory experiments

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a major component of marine debris globally. Recently, hazardous hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDDs) were detected in EPS buoys used for aquaculture farming. Subsequently, enrichment of HBCDDs was found in nearby marine sediments and mussels growing on EPS buoys. It was suspected that EPS buoys and their debris might be sources of HBCDDs. To confirm this, the release of HBCDDs from EPS spherules detached from a buoy to seawater was investigated under field (open sea surface and closed outdoor chambers with sun exposure and in the dark) and laboratory (particle-size) conditions. In all exposure groups, initial rapid leaching of HBCDDs was followed by slow desorption over time. Abundant release of HBCDDs was observed from EPS spherules exposed to the open sea surface (natural) and on exposure to sunlight irradiation or in the dark in controlled saline water. Water leaching and UV-light/temperature along with possibly biodegradation were responsible for about 37% and 12% of HBCDDs flux, respectively. Crumbled EPS particles (≤ 1 mm) in samples deployed on the sea surface for 6 months showed a high degree of weathering. This implies that surface erosion and further fragmentation of EPS via environmental weathering could enhance the leaching of HBCDDs from the surface of EPS. Overall, in the marine environment, HBCDDs could be released to a great extent from EPS products and their debris due to the cumulative effects of the movement of large volumes of water (dilution), biodegradation, UV-light/temperature, wave action (shaking), salinity and further fragmentation of EPS spherules.

Manviri Rani, Won Joon Shim, Mi Jang and al., Chemosphere, Vol. 185, Oct. 2017

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The uptake of macroplastic & microplastic by demersal & pelagic fish in the Northeast Atlantic around Scotland

This study reports plastic ingestion in various fish found from coastal and offshore sites in Scottish marine waters. Coastal samples consisted of three demersal flatfish species (n = 128) collected from the East and West coasts of Scotland. Offshore samples consisted of 5 pelagic species and 4 demersal species (n = 84) collected from the Northeast Atlantic. From the coastal fish sampled, 47.7% of the gastrointestinal tracts contained macroplastic and microplastic. Of the 84 pelagic and demersal offshore fish, only 2 (2.4%) individuals from different species had ingested plastic identified as a clear polystyrene fibre and a black polyamide fibre. The average number of plastic items found per fish from all locations that had ingested plastic was 1.8 (± 1.7) with polyamide (65.3%), polyethylene terephthalate (14.4%) and acrylic (14.4%) being the three most commonly found plastics. This study adds to the existing data on macroplastic and microplastic ingestion in fish species.

Fionn Murphy, Marie Russell, Ciaran Ewins, Brian Quinn, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 122 (1-2), 15 September 2017

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Monitoring of styrene oligomers as indicators of polystyrene plastic pollution in the North-West Pacific Ocean

Styrene oligomers (SOs) as global contaminants are an environmental concern. However, little is known on the distribution of SOs in the ocean. Here, we show the distribution of anthropogenic SOs generated from discarded polystyrene (PS) plastic monitored from the coastal ocean surface waters (horizontal distribution) and deep seawaters (vertical distribution) in the North-West Pacific Ocean. SOs concentrations in surface seawater and deep seawater ranged from 0.17 to 4.26 μg L−1 (total mean: 1.48 ± 1.23 μg L−1) and from 0.31 to 4.31 μg L−1 (total mean: 1.32 ± 0.87 μg L−1), respectively. Since there is no significant difference in the mean concentrations, SOs seems to be spread across marine environment selected in this study. Nevertheless, regional SOs appears to persist to varying degrees with their broad horizontal and vertical distribution in the ocean. Each horizontal and vertical distribution of SOs differs by approximately 1.95–2.57 times, probably depending on the events of weather and global ocean circulation. These results provide the distribution pattern of SOs for assessing environmental pollution arising from PS plastic.

Bum Gun Kwon, Keiji Amamiya, Hideto Sato and al., Chemosphere, Volume 180, August 2017, Pages 500–505

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