Arctic sea ice is an important temporal sink and means of transport for microplastic

Microplastics (MP) are recognized as a growing environmental hazard and have been identified as far as the remote Polar Regions, with particularly high concentrations of microplastics in sea ice. Little is known regarding the horizontal variability of MP within sea ice and how the underlying water body affects MP composition during sea ice growth. Here we show that sea ice MP has no uniform polymer composition and that, depending on the growth region and drift paths of the sea ice, unique MP patterns can be observed in different sea ice horizons. Thus even in remote regions such as the Arctic Ocean, certain MP indicate the presence of localized sources. Increasing exploitation of Arctic resources will likely lead to a higher MP load in the Arctic sea ice and will enhance the release of MP in the areas of strong seasonal sea ice melt and the outflow gateways.

Ilka Peeken, Sebastian Primpke, Birte Beyer, Julia Gütermann, Christian Katlein, Thomas Krumpen, Melanie Bergmann, Laura Hehemann,  Gunnar Gerdts, Nature Communications, volume 9, 24 April 2018

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Microplastics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Xiamen coastal areas: Implications for anthropogenic impacts

Microplastics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were investigated to study the influence of human activities and to find their possible relationship on the coastal environments, where the coastal areas around Xiamen are undergoing intensive processes of industrialization and urbanization in the southeast China. The abundance of microplastics in Xiamen coastal areas was 103 to 2017 particles/m3 in surface seawater and 76 to 333 particles/kg in sediments. Concentrations of dissolved PAHs varied from 18.1 to 248 ng/L in surface seawater. The abundances of microplastics from the Western Harbor in surface seawater and sediments were higher than those from other areas. Foams were dominated in surface seawater samples, however, no foams were found in sediments samples. The microscope selection and FTIR analysis suggested that polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) were dominant microplastics. The cluster analysis results demonstrated that fibers and granules had the similar sources, and films had considerably correlation with all types of PAHs (3 or 4-ring PAHs and alkylated PAHs). Plastic film mulch from agriculture practice might be a potential source of microplastics in study areas. Results of our study support that river runoff, watershed area, population and urbanization rate influence the distribution of microplastics in estuarine surface water, and the prevalence of microplastic pollution calls for monitoring microplastics at a national scale.

G. Tang, M. Liu, Q. Zhou and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 634, 1 September 2018, Pages 811-820

The article

Identification and quantitation of semi-crystalline microplastics using image analysis and differential scanning calorimetry

There are several techniques used to analyze microplastics. These are often based on a combination of visual and spectroscopic techniques. Here we introduce an alternative workflow for identification and mass quantitation through a combination of optical microscopy with image analysis (IA) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). We studied four synthetic polymers with environmental concern: low and high density polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE, respectively), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Selected experiments were conducted to investigate (i) particle characterization and counting procedures based on image analysis with open-source software, (ii) chemical identification of microplastics based on DSC signal processing, (iii) dependence of particle size on DSC signal, and (iv) quantitation of microplastics mass based on DSC signal. We describe the potential and limitations of these techniques to increase reliability for microplastic analysis. Particle size demonstrated to have particular incidence in the qualitative and quantitative performance of DSC signals. Both, identification (based on characteristic onset temperature) and mass quantitation (based on heat flow) showed to be affected by particle size. As a result, a proper sample treatment which includes sieving of suspended particles is particularly required for this analytical approach.

Mauricio Rodríguez Chialanza, Ignacio Sierra, Andrés Pérez Parada, Laura Fornaro, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1–9, April 2018

Application of an enzyme digestion method reveals microlitter in Mytilus trossulus at a wastewater discharge area

The ingestion of microlitter by blue mussels (450) was studied at a wastewater recipient area in the Baltic Sea. The mussel soft tissues were digested using enzymatic detergents and the detected litter particles characterized with FT-IR imaging spectroscopy. Microlitter concentration in seawater and WWTP effluent were also measured. Microlitter was found in 66% of the mussels. Mussels from the WWTP recipient had higher microlitter content compared to those collected at the reference site. Plastics made up 8% of all the analysed microlitter particles. The dominating litter types were fibres (~90% of all microlitter), 42% of which were cotton, 17% linen, 17% viscose and 4% polyester. The risk of airborne contamination during laboratory work was lowered when mussels were digested with their shells on instead of dissecting them first. The approach was found applicable and gentle to both non-synthetic and synthetic materials including fragile fibres.

Saana Railo, Julia Talvitie, Outi Setälä and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 130, May 2018,  Pages 206–214

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A workflow for improving estimates of microplastic contamination in marine waters: A case study from North-Western Australia

Highlights

We present an analysis workflow tailored to quantifying microplastic contamination.
It outlines a consistent and sequential process for analysis and decision making.
We apply the workflow to marine tow samples from remote North-Western Australia.
Spectroscopy refutes plastic origin of >60% of particles first identified visually.
The workflow will provide more realistic and comparable contamination estimates.

Frederieke Kroon, Cherie Motti, Sam Talbot, Paula Sobral, Marji Puotinen, Environmental Pollution, Volume 238, July 2018, Pages 26–38

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Below the surface: Twenty-five years of seafloor litter monitoring in coastal seas of North West Europe (1992–2017)

Marine litter presents a global problem, with increasing quantities documented in recent decades. The distribution and abundance of marine litter on the seafloor off the United Kingdom’s (UK) coasts were quantified during 39 independent scientific surveys conducted between 1992 and 2017. Widespread distribution of litter items, especially plastics, were found on the seabed of the North Sea, English Channel, Celtic Sea and Irish Sea. High variation in abundance of litter items, ranging from 0 to 1835 pieces km−2 of seafloor, was observed. Plastic tems such as bags, bottles and fishing related debris were commonly observed across all areas. Over the entire 25-year period (1992–2017), 63% of the 2461 trawls contained at least one plastic litter item. There was no significant temporal trend in the percentage of trawls containing any or total plastic litter items across the long-term datasets. Statistically significant trends, however, were observed in specific plastic litter categories only. These trends were all positive except for a negative trend in plastic bags in the Greater North Sea – suggesting that behavioural and legislative changes could reduce the problem of marine litter within decades.

T. Maes, J. Barry, H.A. Leslie and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 630, 15 July 2018, Pages 790–798

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