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      Ecotoxicological effects of microplastics on biota: a review

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      Environmental Science and Pollution Research

      Springer Nature America, Inc

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          Synthetic polymers in the marine environment: a rapidly increasing, long-term threat.

          Synthetic polymers, commonly known as plastics, have been entering the marine environment in quantities paralleling their level of production over the last half century. However, in the last two decades of the 20th Century, the deposition rate accelerated past the rate of production, and plastics are now one of the most common and persistent pollutants in ocean waters and beaches worldwide. Thirty years ago the prevailing attitude of the plastic industry was that "plastic litter is a very small proportion of all litter and causes no harm to the environment except as an eyesore" [Derraik, J.G.B., 2002. The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 44(9), 842-852]. Between 1960 and 2000, the world production of plastic resins increased 25-fold, while recovery of the material remained below 5%. Between 1970 and 2003, plastics became the fastest growing segment of the US municipal waste stream, increasing nine-fold, and marine litter is now 60-80% plastic, reaching 90-95% in some areas. While undoubtedly still an eyesore, plastic debris today is having significant harmful effects on marine biota. Albatross, fulmars, shearwaters and petrels mistake floating plastics for food, and many individuals of these species are affected; in fact, 44% of all seabird species are known to ingest plastic. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags, fishing line and other plastics, as do 26 species of cetaceans. In all, 267 species of marine organisms worldwide are known to have been affected by plastic debris, a number that will increase as smaller organisms are assessed. The number of fish, birds, and mammals that succumb each year to derelict fishing nets and lines in which they become entangled cannot be reliably known; but estimates are in the millions. We divide marine plastic debris into two categories: macro, >5 mm and micro, <5 mm. While macro-debris may sometimes be traced to its origin by object identification or markings, micro-debris, consisting of particles of two main varieties, (1) fragments broken from larger objects, and (2) resin pellets and powders, the basic thermoplastic industry feedstocks, are difficult to trace. Ingestion of plastic micro-debris by filter feeders at the base of the food web is known to occur, but has not been quantified. Ingestion of degraded plastic pellets and fragments raises toxicity concerns, since plastics are known to adsorb hydrophobic pollutants. The potential bioavailability of compounds added to plastics at the time of manufacture, as well as those adsorbed from the environment are complex issues that merit more widespread investigation. The physiological effects of any bioavailable compounds desorbed from plastics by marine biota are being directly investigated, since it was found 20 years ago that the mass of ingested plastic in Great Shearwaters was positively correlated with PCBs in their fat and eggs. Colonization of plastic marine debris by sessile organisms provides a vector for transport of alien species in the ocean environment and may threaten marine biodiversity. There is also potential danger to marine ecosystems from the accumulation of plastic debris on the sea floor. The accumulation of such debris can inhibit gas exchange between the overlying waters and the pore waters of the sediments, and disrupt or smother inhabitants of the benthos. The extent of this problem and its effects have recently begun to be investigated. A little more than half of all thermoplastics will sink in seawater.
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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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              Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress

              Plastic debris litters aquatic habitats globally, the majority of which is microscopic (< 1 mm), and is ingested by a large range of species. Risks associated with such small fragments come from the material itself and from chemical pollutants that sorb to it from surrounding water. Hazards associated with the complex mixture of plastic and accumulated pollutants are largely unknown. Here, we show that fish, exposed to a mixture of polyethylene with chemical pollutants sorbed from the marine environment, bioaccumulate these chemical pollutants and suffer liver toxicity and pathology. Fish fed virgin polyethylene fragments also show signs of stress, although less severe than fish fed marine polyethylene fragments. We provide baseline information regarding the bioaccumulation of chemicals and associated health effects from plastic ingestion in fish and demonstrate that future assessments should consider the complex mixture of the plastic material and their associated chemical pollutants.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Environmental Science and Pollution Research
                Environ Sci Pollut Res
                Springer Nature America, Inc
                0944-1344
                1614-7499
                May 2018
                April 21 2018
                May 2018
                : 25
                : 15
                : 14373-14396
                Article
                10.1007/s11356-018-1999-x
                © 2018

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