Microplastics as contaminants in commercially important seafood species

The ingestion of microplastic fragments, spheres, and fibers by marine mollusks, crustaceans, and fish, including a number of commercially important species, appears to be a widespread and pervasive phenomenon. Evidence is also growing for direct impacts of microplastic ingestion on physiology, reproductive success and survival of exposed marine organisms, and transfer through food webs, although the ecological implications are not yet known. Concerns also remain over the capacity for microplastics to act as vectors for harmful chemical pollutants, including plastic additives and persistent organic pollutants, although their contribution must be evaluated alongside other known sources. The potential for humans, as top predators, to consume microplastics as contaminants in seafood is very real, and its implications for health need to be considered. An urgent need also exists to extend the geographical scope of studies of microplastic contamination in seafood species to currently underrepresented areas, and to finalize and adopt standardized methods and quality-assurance protocols for the isolation, identification, and quantification of microplastic contaminants from biological tissues. Such developments would enable more robust investigation of spatial and temporal trends, thereby contributing further evidence as a sound basis for regulatory controls. Despite the existence of considerable uncertainties and unknowns, there is already a compelling case for urgent actions to identify, control, and, where possible, eliminate key sources of both primary and secondary microplastics before they reach the marine environment.

D. Santillo, K. Miller, P. Johnston, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, Volume 13, Number 3, pp. 516–521, May 2017

The article

Microplastics are not important for the cycling and bioaccumulation of organic pollutants in the oceans—but should microplastics be considered POPs themselves?

The role of microplastic particles in the cycling and bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is discussed. Five common concepts, sometimes misconceptions, about the role of microplastics are reviewed. While there is ample evidence that microplastics accumulate high concentrations of POPs, this does not result in microplastics being important for the global dispersion of POPs. Similarly, there is scant evidence that microplastics are an important transfer vector of POPs into animals, but possibly for plastic additives (flame retardants). Last, listing microplastics as POPs could help reduce their environmental impact.

R. Lohmann, Integrated Env. Assessment and Management, Volume 13, Issue 3, May 2017, Pages 460–465

The article

Distribution, potential sources and ecological risks of two persistent organic pollutants in the intertidal sediment at the Shuangtaizi Estuary, Bohai Sea of China

Spatial distribution, source apportionment, and potential ecological risks of sixteen polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and seven endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in the intertidal sediment at the Shuangtaizi Estuary, Bohai Sea of China were analyzed. Results showed that the total PAH concentrations ranged from 28.79 ng g− 1 dw to 281.97 ng g− 1 dw (mean: 115.92 ng g− 1 dw) and the total EDC concentrations from 0.52 ng g− 1 dw to 126.73 ng g− 1 dw (mean: 37.49 ng g− 1 dw). The distribution pattern for the PAHs was generally different from that of the EDCs possibly due to their distinct sources and n-octanol-/water partition coefficients (KOW). Qualitative and quantitative analytical results showed that PAH sources were mainly from a mixture of pyrogenic and petrogenic contributions. The higher levels at the southeast of Geligang indicated that the EDC pollutants may have mainly originated from the plastic industry and other chemical plants located along the Liao River. Ecological risk assessment revealed that PAHs exhibited low ecotoxicological effects, whereas EDCs, especially 4-tert-octylphenol and bisphenol A, had high ecological hazard to the estuarine biota.

Xiutang Yuan, Xiaolong Yang, Anguo Zhang, Xindong Ma, Hui Gao, Guangshui Na, Humin Zong, Guize Liu, Yongguang Sun, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 114, Issue 1, 15 January 2017, Pages 419–427

The article

Tracing the Biotransformation of PCBs and PBDEs in Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) Using Compound-Specific and Enantiomer-Specific Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis

Compound-specific and enantiomer-specific carbon isotope composition was investigated in terms of biotransformation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) as well as atropisomers of chiral PCB congeners in fish by exposing common carp (Cyprinus carpio) to certain PCB and PBDE congeners. The calculated carbon isotope enrichment factors (εC) for PCB 8, 18, and 45 were −1.99, −1.84, and −1.70‰, respectively, providing evidence of the metabolism of these congeners in fish. The stable carbon isotopic compositions of PBDE congeners clearly reflect the debromination of PBDEs in carp. Significant isotopic fractionation was also observed during the debromination process of BDE 153 (εC = −0.86‰). Stereoselective elimination of chiral PCB congeners 45, 91, and 95 was observed, indicating a stereoselective biotransformation process. The similar εC values for E1-PCB 45 (−1.63‰) and E2-PCB 45 (−1.74‰) indicated that both atropisomers were metabolized by the same reaction mechanisms and stereoselection did not occur at carbon bond cleavage. However, the εC values of (+)-PCB 91 (−1.5‰) and (−)-PCB 95 (−0.77‰) were significantly different from those of (−)-PCB 91 and (+)-PCB 95, respectively. In the latter, no significant isotopic fractionations were observed, indicating that the stereoselective elimination of PCB 91 and 95 could be caused by a different reaction mechanism in the two atropisomers.

Bin Tang, Xiao-Jun Luo, Yan-Hong Zeng, and Bi-Xian Mai, Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, February 16, 2017

The article

Statistical Survey of Persistent Organic Pollutants: Risk Estimations to Humans and Wildlife through Consumption of Fish from U.S. Rivers

U.S. EPA conducted a national statistical survey of fish tissue contamination at 540 river sites (representing 82 954 river km) in 2008–2009, and analyzed samples for 50 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including 21 PCB congeners, 8 PBDE congeners, and 21 organochlorine pesticides. The survey results were used to provide national estimates of contamination for these POPs. PCBs were the most abundant, being measured in 93.5% of samples. Summed concentrations of the 21 PCB congeners had a national weighted mean of 32.7 μg/kg and a maximum concentration of 857 μg/kg, and exceeded the human health cancer screening value of 12 μg/kg in 48% of the national sampled population of river km, and in 70% of the urban sampled population. PBDEs (92.0%), chlordane (88.5%) and DDT (98.7%) were also detected frequently, although at lower concentrations. Results were examined by subpopulations of rivers, including urban or nonurban and three defined ecoregions. PCBs, PBDEs, and DDT occur at significantly higher concentrations in fish from urban rivers versus nonurban; however, the distribution varied more among the ecoregions. Wildlife screening values previously published for bird and mammalian species were converted from whole fish to fillet screening values, and used to estimate risk for wildlife through fish consumption.

Angela L. Batt, John B. Wathen, James M. Lazorchak, Anthony R. Olsen, and Thomas M. Kincaid,  Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, February 23, 2017

Leachate from microplastics impairs larval development in brown mussels

Microplastic debris is a pervasive type of contaminant in marine ecosystems, being considered a major threat to marine biota. One of the problems of microplastics is that they can adsorb contaminants in extremely high concentrations. When released from the particle, these contaminants have the potential to cause toxic effects in the biota. So far, reports of toxic effects are mostly linked with the direct exposure of organisms through ingestion of contaminated microplastics. There is little information on the toxicity of leachates from microplastics to marine organisms. In this study, we conducted experiments to evaluate the toxicity of leachates from virgin and beached plastic pellets to embryo development of the brown mussel (Perna perna). We compared the efficiency of two test procedures, and evaluated the toxicity of beached pellets collected in a coastal marine protected area. We observed that mussel embryo is sensitive to leachate from both virgin and beached pellets. However, the toxicity of the leachate from beached pellets was much higher than that of virgin pellets. We suggest contaminants adsorbed onto the surface of beached pellets were responsible for the high toxicity of leachate from beached pellets, while the toxicity of leachate from virgin pellets was mainly due to plastic additives. Our results suggest microplastic debris may be harmful even if ingestion is not the only or main pathway of interaction of marine organisms with contaminated plastic debris.

Pablo Pena Gandara e Silva, Caio Rodrigues Nobre, Pryscila Resaffe, Camilo Dias Seabra Pereira, Felipe Gusmão, Water Research, Volume 106, 1 December 2016, Pages 364–370

The article

Marine litter, future prospects for research

As far back as 1870, i.e., about 150 years ago, Jules Verne described the accumulation of debris in the convergence zone of the North Atlantic Ocean in his famous novel entitled “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.” Many scientific reports have addressed this topic since and our main concern today is the ever increasing volume of marine litter invading the oceans in various and complex ways. One of the current main challenges is assessing the final destination of this litter. To date, its adverse effects on marine life have only occasionally been investigated and many questions remain unanswered. In addition to efforts to monitor and reduce litter, recent literature has underlined the scientific community’s focus on specific issues such as (i) the evaluation of sources and inputs, (ii) transport and distribution at sea, (iii) the transport of litter and, in particular, plastics within the food web, and (iv) the types of chemicals and organisms likely to sorb or settle on debris and how they can be rafted over long distances. It is important to address these questions in a more detailed manner.

F. Galgani, Frontiers in Marine Science, 5 pages, October 2015

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