The Complex Interaction between Marine Debris and Toxic Chemicals in the Ocean

Environmental Science & Technology (Impact Factor: 5.33). 10/2012; 46(22). DOI: 10.1021/es3027105
Source: PubMed


Marine debris, especially plastic debris, is widely recognized as global environmental problem. There has been substantial research on the impacts of plastic marine debris, such as entanglement and ingestion. These impacts are largely due to the physical presence of plastic debris. In recent years there has been an increasing focus on the impacts of toxic chemicals as they relate to plastic debris. Some plastic debris acts as a source of toxic chemicals: substances that were added to the plastic during manufacturing leach from plastic debris. Plastic debris also acts as a sink for toxic chemicals. Plastic sorbs persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances (PBTs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, from the water or sediment. These PBTs may desorb when the plastic is ingested by any of a variety of marine species. This broad look at the current research suggests that while there is significant uncertainty and complexity in the kinetics and thermodynamics of the interaction, plastic debris appears to act as a vector transferring PBTs from the water to the food web, increasing risk throughout the marine food web, including humans. Because of the extremely long lifetime of plastic and PBTs in the ocean, prevention strategies are vital to minimizing these risks.

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    • "This work has been confirmed by carefully controlled laboratory studies where fitness effects (including the formation of pre-cancer cells) from ingestion of plastics have been demon- strated[8]. To date, the link between plastic ingestion by ocean animals (especially fish and shellfish) and human health has not yet been made, but this is a growing concern and active area of research[33]. Developing effective public and private sector strategies to confront the threat of plastic pollution requires an understanding of the relative threat of different items to ocean health. The relative threat of all 20 items was evaluated by combining the three threats (entanglement, ingestion and contamination) for potential severity and specificity across the three taxa studied (Table 2). "
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    ABSTRACT: Marine litter is a growing environmental concern. With the rapid increase in global plastics production and the resulting large volume of litter that enters the marine environment, determining the consequences of this debris on marine fauna and ocean health has now become a critical environmental priority, particularly for threatened and endangered species. However, there are limited data about the impacts of debris on marine species from which to draw conclusions about the population consequences of anthropogenic debris. To address this knowledge gap, information was elicited from experts on the ecological threat (both severity and specificity) of entanglement, ingestion and chemical contamination for three major marine taxa: seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals. The threat assessment focused on the most common types of litter that are found along the world's coastlines, based on data gathered during three decades of international coastal clean-up efforts. Fishing related gear, balloons and plastic bags were estimated to pose the greatest entanglement risk to marine fauna. In contrast, experts identified a broader suite of items of concern for ingestion, with plastic bags and plastic utensils ranked as the greatest threats. Entanglement and ingestion affected a similar range of taxa, although entanglement was rated as slightly worse because it is more likely to be lethal. Contamination was scored the lowest in terms of impact, affecting a smaller portion of the taxa and being rated as having solely non-lethal impacts. This work points towards a number of opportunities both for policy-based and consumer-driven changes in plastics use that could have demonstrable affects for a range of ecologically important taxa that serve as indicators of marine ecosystem health.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2016 · Marine Policy
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    • "The major toxicological impact related to microplastic ingestion by filter-feeding organisms is the role that microplastics may play in persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals and in the leaching of plastic additives. Because PBT chemicals have low solubility in seawater, they tend to concentrate in the sea-surface microlayer, where they can be absorbed by microdebris, and thus may bioaccumulate in organisms that can ingest microplastic particles (Engler, 2012). However, modelling studies indicate that microplastics may act as a cleansing mechanism for PBT chemicals with log KOW between 5.5 and 6.5 (Gouin et al., 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: The impact that microplastics have on baleen whales is a question that remains largely unexplored. This study examined the interaction between free-ranging fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and microplastics by comparing populations living in two semi-enclosed basins, the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California, Mexico). The results indicate that a considerable abundance of microplastics and plastic additives exists in the neustonic samples from Pelagos Sanctuary of the Mediterranean Sea, and that pelagic areas containing high densities of microplastics overlap with whale feeding grounds, suggesting that whales are exposed to microplastics during foraging; this was confirmed by the observation of a temporal increase in toxicological stress in whales. Given the abundance of microplastics in the Mediterranean environment, along with the high concentrations of Persistent Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) chemicals, plastic additives and biomarker responses detected in the biopsies of Mediterranean whales as compared to those in whales inhabiting the Sea of Cortez, we believe that exposure to microplastics because of direct ingestion and consumption of contaminated prey poses a major threat to the health of fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2016 · Environmental Pollution
    • "These particulates arise from the fragmentation of larger pieces as they weather, or from surface water, where they are present because of the use of consumer-level plastic abrasives called microbeads in personal care products. Microplastics may not be removed by standard wastewater treatment processes and can pass through treatment facilities largely unchanged (Engler 2012). Abrasive scrub cleansers were developed when people realized that mechanical exfoliation – the process of removing the outermost layer of skin with an abrasive material– produces smoother skin (Decker and Graber 2012, Draelos 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: Microplastics (<5mm) have been discovered in fresh and saltwater ecosystems, sediments, and wastewater effluent around the world. Their ability to persist and accumulate up food chains should be a concern as research is still experimenting with techniques to assess their long-term effects on the environment. I sought to characterize the microbeads found in facial exfoliating cleansers so as to better understand how to reduce this source of pollution through consumer use and wastewater treatment solutions. By sampling products from national-grossing cosmetic personal care brands, I was able to gather information on the size, color, volume, mass, and concentration of polyethylene beads in the cleansers. From that data, I modeled onto a consumer survey the estimated volume of microplastics entering a wastewater stream. Through inquiry, I learned the practices of two local wastewater treatment facilities. My findings show that consumer decisions and treatment protocols both play crucial parts in minimizing microplastic pollution.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Marine Pollution Bulletin
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