Microplastics in mussels sampled from coastal waters and supermarkets in the United Kingdom

Global contamination of the marine environment by plastic has led to the discovery of microplastics in a range of marine species, including those for human consumption. In this study, the presence of microplastics and other anthropogenic debris in seawater and mussels (Mytilus edulis) from coastal waters of the U.K., as well as supermarket sources, was investigated. These were detected in all samples from all sites with spatial differences observed. Seawater samples taken from 6 locations (in triplicates) displayed 3.5 ± 2.0 debris items/L on average (range: 1.5–6.7 items/L). In wild mussels sampled from 8 locations around the U.K. coastal environment, the number of total debris items varied from 0.7 to 2.9 items/g of tissue and from 1.1 to 6.4 items/individual. For the supermarket bought mussels, the abundance of microplastics was significantly higher in pre-cooked mussels (1.4 items/g) compared with mussels supplied live (0.9 items/g). Micro-FT-IR spectroscopy was conducted on 136 randomly selected samples, with 94 items characterized. The spectra found that 50% of these debris items characterized were microplastic, with an additional 37% made up of rayon and cotton fibers. The microplastic levels detected in the supermarket bought mussels present a route for human exposure and suggests that their quantification be included as food safety management measures as well as for environmental monitoring health measures.

J. Li, C. Green, A. Reynolds and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 241, October 2018, Pages 35–44

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China Focus: Chinese scientists to improve microplastics research

When Wang Wenfeng, a PhD candidate in central China’s Hubei Province, undertook his research into microplastics he did not expect British Prime Minister Theresa May to draw attention to his work. Studying at Wuhan Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, capital of the province, Wang, 29, met the British Prime Minister on Wednesday, the first day of her three-day official visit to the country. She talked with Chinese scholars during her stay in Wuhan, and Wang was among them. “I introduced my studies and findings to her in English. The prime minister listened carefully and said microplastic pollution is a global concern,” Wang said. (…)

Wang and his team carried out research in freshwater by innovating and updating technologies over the past years. They successfully obtained information about microplastic pollution in lakes in Wuhan and the Three Gorges Reservoir area. (…) (xinhuanet.com, 02/02/2018)

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Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK

Manufacturing ban means the tiny beads which harm marine life can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care product.

Plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, after a long-promised ban came into effect on Tuesday. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products and a ban on sales will follow in July. (…) (theguardian.com, 9/01/2018)

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Microplastic contamination of intertidal sediments of Scapa Flow, Orkney: A first assessment

The concentration of microplastic particles and fibres was determined in the intertidal sediments at selected sites in Scapa Flow, Orkney, using a super-saturated NaCl flotation technique to extract the plastic and FT-IR spectroscopy to determine the polymer types. Mean concentrations were 730 and 2300 kg− 1 sediment (DW), respectively. Detailed spatial and quantitative analysis revealed that their distribution was a function of proximity to populated areas and associated wastewater effluent, industrial installations, degree of shore exposure and complex tidal flow patterns. Sediment samples from Orkney showed similar levels of microplastic contamination as in two highly populate industrialized mainland UK areas, The Clyde and the Firth of Forth. It was concluded that relative remoteness and a comparative small island population are not predictors of lower microplastic pollution. Furthermore, a larger concerted effort across Scotland and the UK is required to establish a baseline microplastic database for the evaluation of future policy measures.

J. Blumenröder, P. Sechet, J.E. Kakkonen, M.G.J. Hartl, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 124, Issue 1, 15 November 2017, Pages 112-120

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Microplastics in the sediments of a UK urban lake

While studies on microplastics in the marine environment show their wide-distribution, persistence and contamination of biota, the freshwater environment remains comparatively neglected. Where studies on freshwaters have been undertaken these have been on riverine systems or very large lakes. We present data on the distribution of microplastic particles in the sediments of Edgbaston Pool, a shallow eutrophic lake in central Birmingham, UK. These data provide, to our knowledge, the first assessment of microplastic concentrations in the sediments of either a small or an urban lake and the first for any lake in the UK. Maximum concentrations reached 25–30 particles per 100 g dried sediment (equivalent to low hundreds kg−1) and hence are comparable with reported river sediment studies. Fibres and films were the most common types of microplastic observed. Spatial distributions appear to be due to similar factors to other lake studies (i.e. location of inflow; prevailing wind directions; propensity for biofouling; distribution of macroplastic debris) and add to the growing burden of evidence for microplastic ubiquity in all environments.

Rebecca Vaughan, Simon D. Turner, Neil L. Rose, Environmental Pollution, Volume 229, October 2017, Pages 10–18

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Tiny plastic pellets found on 73% of UK beaches

A search of hundreds of beaches across the UK has found almost three-quarters of them are littered with tiny plastic pellets.

The lentil-size pellets known as “nurdles” are used as a raw material by industry to make new plastic products.

But searches of 279 shorelines from Shetland to Scilly revealed that 205 (73%) contained pellets.

The largest number recorded in the Great Winter Nurdle Hunt weekend in early February were found at Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, where 33 volunteers from the Widemouth Task Force collected about 127,500 pellets on a 100-metre stretch of beach.

Thousands of the tiny pellets were spotted by volunteers over a short period in locations from Porth Neigwl in Wales to the shoreline in front of the dunes at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool, County Durham, and after stormy conditions on the Isle of Wight. (…) (theguardian.com, 17/02/2017)

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