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      Plastics in the Marine Environment

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      Annual Review of Marine Science

      Annual Reviews

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          Abstract

          Plastics contamination in the marine environment was first reported nearly 50 years ago, less than two decades after the rise of commercial plastics production, when less than 50 million metric tons were produced per year. In 2014, global plastics production surpassed 300 million metric tons per year. Plastic debris has been detected worldwide in all major marine habitats, in sizes from microns to meters. In response, concerns about risks to marine wildlife upon exposure to the varied forms of plastic debris have increased, stimulating new research into the extent and consequences of plastics contamination in the marine environment. Here, I present a framework to evaluate the current understanding of the sources, distribution, fate, and impacts of marine plastics. Despite remaining knowledge gaps in mass budgeting and challenges in investigating ecological impacts, the increasing evidence of the ubiquity of plastics contamination in the marine environment, the continued rapid growth in plastics production, and the evidence—albeit limited—of demonstrated impacts to marine wildlife support immediate implementation of source-reducing measures to decrease the potential risks of plastics in the marine ecosystem.

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          Most cited references 87

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          Transport and release of chemicals from plastics to the environment and to wildlife.

          Plastics debris in the marine environment, including resin pellets, fragments and microscopic plastic fragments, contain organic contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides (2,2'-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane, hexachlorinated hexanes), polybrominated diphenylethers, alkylphenols and bisphenol A, at concentrations from sub ng g(-1) to microg g(-1). Some of these compounds are added during plastics manufacture, while others adsorb from the surrounding seawater. Concentrations of hydrophobic contaminants adsorbed on plastics showed distinct spatial variations reflecting global pollution patterns. Model calculations and experimental observations consistently show that polyethylene accumulates more organic contaminants than other plastics such as polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride. Both a mathematical model using equilibrium partitioning and experimental data have demonstrated the transfer of contaminants from plastic to organisms. A feeding experiment indicated that PCBs could transfer from contaminated plastics to streaked shearwater chicks. Plasticizers, other plastics additives and constitutional monomers also present potential threats in terrestrial environments because they can leach from waste disposal sites into groundwater and/or surface waters. Leaching and degradation of plasticizers and polymers are complex phenomena dependent on environmental conditions in the landfill and the chemical properties of each additive. Bisphenol A concentrations in leachates from municipal waste disposal sites in tropical Asia ranged from sub microg l(-1) to mg l(-1) and were correlated with the level of economic development.
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            Ingested microscopic plastic translocates to the circulatory system of the mussel, Mytilus edulis (L).

            Plastics debris is accumulating in the environment and is fragmenting into smaller pieces; as it does, the potential for ingestion by animals increases. The consequences of macroplastic debris for wildlife are well documented, however the impacts of microplastic (< 1 mm) are poorly understood. The mussel, Mytilus edulis, was used to investigate ingestion, translocation, and accumulation of this debris. Initial experiments showed that upon ingestion, microplastic accumulated in the gut. Mussels were subsequently exposed to treatments containing seawater and microplastic (3.0 or 9.6 microm). After transfer to clean conditions, microplastic was tracked in the hemolymph. Particles translocated from the gut to the circulatory system within 3 days and persisted for over 48 days. Abundance of microplastic was greatest after 12 days and declined thereafter. Smaller particles were more abundant than larger particles and our data indicate as plastic fragments into smaller particles, the potential for accumulation in the tissues of an organism increases. The short-term pulse exposure used here did not result in significant biological effects. However, plastics are exceedingly durable and so further work using a wider range of organisms, polymers, and periods of exposure will be required to establish the biological consequences of this debris.
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              Microplastics in bivalves cultured for human consumption.

              Microplastics are present throughout the marine environment and ingestion of these plastic particles (<1 mm) has been demonstrated in a laboratory setting for a wide array of marine organisms. Here, we investigate the presence of microplastics in two species of commercially grown bivalves: Mytilus edulis and Crassostrea gigas. Microplastics were recovered from the soft tissues of both species. At time of human consumption, M. edulis contains on average 0.36 ± 0.07 particles g(-1) (wet weight), while a plastic load of 0.47 ± 0.16 particles g(-1) ww was detected in C. gigas. As a result, the annual dietary exposure for European shellfish consumers can amount to 11,000 microplastics per year. The presence of marine microplastics in seafood could pose a threat to food safety, however, due to the complexity of estimating microplastic toxicity, estimations of the potential risks for human health posed by microplastics in food stuffs is not (yet) possible.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Marine Science
                Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci.
                Annual Reviews
                1941-1405
                1941-0611
                January 03 2017
                January 03 2017
                : 9
                : 1
                : 205-229
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543; email:
                Article
                10.1146/annurev-marine-010816-060409
                27620829
                © 2017

                Social policy & Welfare, Medicine, Psychology, Engineering, Public health, Life sciences

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