Sorption behaviors of phenanthrene on the microplastics identified in a mariculture farm in Xiangshan Bay, southeastern China

Recently, with the accumulation of evidence that microplastic can be ingested by a variety of marine organisms, microplastic sorption behaviors towards organic contaminants (OCs) have become the subject of more studies due to the concerns about the contaminant vector effect. In this study, the priority microplastics identified in a mariculture farm in Xiangshan Bay, China, including polyethylene (PE) and nylon fibers (i.e., derived from new fishing ropes and nets), were examined for their sorption behaviors. The results indicate that both plastic fibers show linear isotherms towards phenanthrene, a common target hydrophobic organic contaminant (HOC), revealing the characteristics of a partitioning mechanism. The sorption capacity of PE fiber was found to be 1–2 orders of magnitude higher (evaluated by Freundlich parameter log KF) than that of nylon fiber, suggesting the importance of plastic surface functional groups (i.e., with or without hydrophilic groups). By comparing carbon normalized log KF with literature data, the organic affinity of PE fiber was found to be 1–2 orders of magnitude lower than that of vectors, such as carbonaceous geosorbents (CG), but was 1–2 orders of magnitude higher than that of marine sediments. Small size and rough surface tended to enhance the sorption of plastic fibers of phenanthrene. In addition, phenol (log KOW: 1.46), a low-hydrophobicity compound, showed approximately 3 orders of magnitude lower sorption amounts onto both fibers compared to phenanthrene (log KOW: 4.46), indicating the selectivity of hydrophobicity. The results of this study demonstrate that the high abundance of plastic fibers distributed in mariculture farms could lead to a higher contaminant transfer effect than marine sediments, and their effects on cultured seafood (e.g., crab and fish) need further investigation.

Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 628–629, 1 July 2018, Pages 1617–1626
Zheng Wang, Minglong Chen, Liwen Zhang and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 628–629, 1 July 2018, Pages 1617–1626

A critical perspective on early communications concerning human health aspects of microplastics

Microplastic research in recent years has shown that small plastic particles are found almost everywhere we look. Besides aquatic and terrestrial environments, this also includes aquatic species intended for human consumption and several studies have reported their prevalence in other food products and beverages. The scientific as well as public debate has therefore increasingly focused on human health implications of microplastic exposure. However, there is a big discrepancy between the magnitude of this debate and actual scientific findings, which have merely shown the presence of microplastics in certain products. While plastics can undoubtedly be hazardous to human health due to toxicity of associated chemicals or as a consequence of particle toxicity, the extent to which microplastics in individual food products and beverages contribute to this is debatable. Considering the enormous use of plastic materials in our everyday lives, microplastics from food products and beverages likely only constitute a minor exposure pathway for plastic particles and associated chemicals to humans. But as this is rarely put into perspective, the recent debate has created a skewed picture of human plastic exposure. We risk pulling the focus away from the root of the problem: the way in which we consume, use and dispose of plastics leading to their widespread presence in our everyday life and in the environment. Therefore we urge for a more careful and balanced discussion which includes these aspects.

Sinja Rist, Bethanie Carney Almroth, Nanna B. Hartmann, Therese M. Karlsson, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 626, 1 June 2018, Pages 720–726

The article

Plastic found in mussels from Arctic to China – enters human food

Tiny bits of plastic are contaminating mussels from the European Arctic to China in a sign of the global spread of ocean pollution that can end up on people’s dinner plates.

Mussels in apparently pristine Arctic waters had most plastic of any tested along the Norwegian coast, according to a study this month by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).

Plastics may be getting swept north by ocean currents and winds from Europe and America, ending up swirling around the Arctic Ocean, NIVA researcher Amy Lusher told Reuters.

“Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked,” she said.

Past surveys have found microplastics off nations including China, Chile, Canada, Britain and Belgium. Off Norway, the molluscs contained on average 1.8 bits of microplastic – defined as smaller than 5 mm long (0.2 inch) – with 4.3 in the Arctic. (…) (, 20/12/2017)

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Microplastic and mesoplastic contamination in canned sardines and sprats

No report was found on the occurrence of microplastics in processed seafood products that are manufactured for direct human consumption. This study investigates the potential presence of micro- and mesoplastics in 20 brands of canned sardines and sprats originating from 13 countries over 4 continents followed by their chemical composition determination using micro-Raman spectroscopy. The particles were further inspected for their inorganic composition through energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX). Plastic particles were absent in 16 brands while between 1 and 3 plastic particles per brand were found in the other 4 brands. The most abundant plastic polymers were polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The presence of micro- and mesoplastics in the canned sardines and sprats might be due to the translocation of these particles into the edible tissues, improper gutting, or the result of contamination from the canneries. The low prevalence of micro- and mesoplastics sized > 149 μm, and the absence of potentially hazardous inorganic elements on them, might indicate the limited health risks associated with their presence in canned sardines and sprats. Due to the possible increase in micro- and mesoplastic loads in seafood products over time, the findings of this study suggest their quantification to be included as one of the components of food safety management systems.

Ali Karami, Abolfazl Golieskardi, Cheng Keong Choo, Vincent Larat, Samaneh Karbalaei, Babak Salamatinia, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 612, 15 January 2018, Pages 1380-1386

The article

Chronic ingestion of polystyrene microparticles in low doses has no effect on food consumption and growth to the intertidal amphipod Echinogammarus marinus?

The ingestion of microplastics (plastic particles <5 mm) has been observed in a range of marine organisms, and adverse effects have been reported in several species after high concentration exposure. However, the long-term effects of low-dose ingestion remains unclear. The aim of this study was thus to assess the chronic effects of low concentrations of polystyrene microparticles to the intertidal amphipod Echinogammarus marinus, using food consumption, growth, and moulting as endpoints. Amphipods were fed a gelatinous algal feed spiked with microbeads (8 μm) in concentrations of ∼0.9, 9 and 99 microplastics/g for 35 days. E. marinus was also analysed for retention of microplastics, and egestion rate was calculated in a separate high-dose feeding experiment. No significant effects were found in the food consumption or growth assays. There was no accumulation of microplastics in the gut, with only one microbead recorded internally in three (8%) of the exposed amphipods. The low number is likely linked to gastrointestinal functions, allowing for easy egestion of indigestible items. This assumption was supported by the observation that after high-dose exposure, 60% of E. marinus egested all microbeads within 24 h. This study suggests that ingesting low concentrations of 8 μm microplastics do not impair the feeding or growth of amphipods along the exposure period. We hope that negative results such as these may further assist in assessing the impact posed by microplastics to marine organisms.

Sarah Bruck, Alex T. Ford, Environmental Pollution, Volume 233, February 2018, Pages 1125-1130

The article

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

Occurrence of halogenated flame retardants in commercial seafood species available in European markets

PBDEs (congeners 28, 47, 99, 100, 153, 154, 183, 209), HBCD (α, β, γ), emerging brominated flame retardants (PBEB, HBB and DBDPE), dechloranes (Dec 602, 603, 604, syn- and anti-DP), TBBPA, 2,4,6-TBP and MeO-PBDEs (8 congeners) were analysed in commercial seafood samples from European countries. Levels were similar to literature and above the environmental quality standards (EQS) limit of the Directive 2013/39/EU for PBDEs. Contaminants were found in 90.5% of the seafood samples at n. d.-356 ng/g lw (n. d.-41.1 ng/g ww). DBDPE was not detected and 2,4,6-TBP was detected only in mussels, but at levels comparable to those of PBDEs. Mussel and seabream were the most contaminated species and the Mediterranean Sea (FAO Fishing Area 37) was the most contaminated location. The risk assessment revealed that there was no health risk related to the exposure to brominated flame retardants via seafood consumption. However, a refined risk assessment for BDE-99 is of interest in the future. Moreover, the cooking process concentrated PBDEs and HBB.

Òscar Aznar-Alemany, Laura Trabalón, Silke Jacobs and al., Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 104, June 2017, Pages 35–47

The article