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Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine ecosystem and human health: a short review


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Human populations are using oceans as their household dustbins, and microplastic is one of the components which are not only polluting shorelines but also freshwater bodies globally. Microplastics are generally referred to particles with a size lower than 5 mm. These microplastics are tiny plastic granules and used as scrubbers in cosmetics, hand cleansers, air-blasting. These contaminants are omnipresent within almost all marine environments at present. The durability of plastics makes it highly resistant to degradation and through indiscriminate disposal they enter in the aquatic environment. Today, it is an issue of increasing scientific concern because these microparticles due to their small size are easily accessible to a wide range of aquatic organisms and ultimately transferred along food web. The chronic biological effects in marine organisms results due to accumulation of microplastics in their cells and tissues. The potential hazardous effects on humans by alternate ingestion of microparticles can cause alteration in chromosomes which lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. Because of the recent threat of microplastics to marine biota as well as on human health, it is important to control excessive use of plastic additives and to introduce certain legislations and policies to regulate the sources of plastic litter. By setup various plastic recycling process or promoting plastic awareness programmes through different social and information media, we will be able to clean our sea dustbin in future.
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1 23
Environmental Science and Pollution
ISSN 0944-1344
Volume 24
Number 27
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017)
DOI 10.1007/s11356-017-9910-8
Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine
ecosystem and human health: a short
Shivika Sharma & Subhankar Chatterjee
1 23
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Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine ecosystem and human
health: a short review
Shivika Sharma
&Subhankar Chatterjee
Received: 10 April 2017 /Accepted: 3 August 2017 / Published online: 16 August 2017
#Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017
Abstract Human populations are using oceans as their
household dustbins, and microplastic is one of the compo-
nents which are not only polluting shorelines but also fresh-
water bodies globally. Microplastics are generally referred to
particles with a size lower than 5 mm. These microplastics are
tiny plastic granules and used as scrubbers in cosmetics, hand
cleansers, air-blasting. These contaminants are omnipresent
within almost all marine environments at present. The dura-
bility of plastics makes it highly resistant to degradation and
through indiscriminate disposal they enter in the aquatic envi-
ronment. Today, it is an issue of increasing scientific concern
because these microparticles due to their small size are easily
accessible to a wide range of aquatic organisms and ultimately
transferred along food web. The chronic biological effects in
marine organisms results due toaccumulation of microplastics
in their cells and tissues. The potential hazardous effects on
humans by alternate ingestion of microparticles can cause al-
teration in chromosomes which lead to infertility, obesity, and
cancer. Because of the recent threat of microplastics to marine
biota as well as on human health, it is important to control
excessive use of plastic additives and to introduce certain leg-
islations and policies to regulate the sources of plastic litter.
By setup various plastic recycling process or promoting
plastic awareness programmes through different social and
information media, we will be able to clean our sea dustbin
in future.
Keywords Microplastic .Microbeads .Marine biota .Food
web .Harmful effects .Environmental policies
Plastics are synthetic polymers which also contain other
chemicals to improve performance (Costa et al. 2016), com-
monly derived from petrochemical sources and have high
ranges of molecular mass and plasticity. Plastics can be syn-
thesized from fossil fuels as well as from biomass of different
origin. The production process of the artificial and natural
polymers along with generation of macroplastics and
microplastics from synthetic polymers are illustrated in Fig.
1. In recent days, wide range of products are made up of plas-
tics due to their ease of manufacture, inertness (chemical, tem-
perature and light resistance as well), low cost, high strength/
weight ratio and resistance to water (Andrady and Neal 2009;
Cauwenberghe et al. 2015). These properties of plastic make
them a suitable candidate for their use in a wide spectrum of
biotechnological applications and more so in industrial organic
synthesis. For this reason, the steep rise in plastic production has
been seen during the last few decades and 288 million tonnes of
plastics were produced worldwide in 2013 alone (Plastics
Europe 2014). The durability of plastic makes it highly resistant
to degradation and therefore, disposing of plastic waste is a big
challenge (Sivan 2011). Recycling is one of the solutions but
unfortunately majority of the plastic debris ends up in landfill
which takes a long duration for its breakdown and decomposi-
tion (Cole et al. 2011). Plastics are entered into the aquatic
environment due to their unsystematic disposal and adversely
Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(doi:10.1007/s11356-017-9910-8) contains supplementary material,
which is available to authorized users.
*Subhankar Chatterjee;
Bioremediation and Metabolomics Research Group, Department of
Chemistry and Chemical Sciences, School of Physical and Material
Sciences, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, TAB, Shahpur,
Kangra, Himachal Pradesh 176206, India
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24:2153021547
DOI 10.1007/s11356-017-9910-8
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affect the marine biota. During the last few decades, this is an
issue of major concern as marine ecosystem has maximum con-
tribution towards global primary productivity (Gregory 2009).
Once enters in the environment, these plastic materials are
degraded by various means and lost their structural rigidity
(Fig. 2), (Browne et al. 2007). The extensive degradation of
plastics finally results into powdery fragments and
microscopic-sized plastics, called microplastics (Barnes et al.
2009). These are microparticles having dimensions ranging
between few micrometre to 500 μm (0.5 mm). Nowadays,
pharmaceuticals and cosmetic industries are using
microplastics in various daily used products and contaminat-
ing the environment via wastewater, ultimately transferred
along food web and impacting marine ecosystem after
reaching into the sea.
The problem of plastic debris (found in both on land and in sea)
has been the focus of environmental issue during the last few
years, but recently minute plastic particles termed as
Bmicroplastics^, have been emerged as hazardous pollutant
(Cole et al. 2011) due to their impact on marine animals and
human health. Microplastics are semi-synthetic plastic poly-
mers particles with a size lower than 5 mm (Browne et al.
2015). Different microscopy (optical, electron) and spectrosco-
py techniques (Raman, NMR, and FTIR) are used to monitor
microplastic suspensions from the environmental samples
(Fig. 3), (Anthony and Andrady 2011). Microplastics are com-
monly used as scrubbers in cosmetics, hand cleansers and are
used in air-blasting (Thompson et al. 2004;Ryanetal.2009).
The first evidence of microplastics fragments in the environment
was reported in 1970s (Carpenter and Smith 1972). After that
many scientific organizations around the globe have discovered
that microplastics are pervasive within the marine habitat and
impacting negatively on marine biota (Rands et al. 2010;
Sutherland et al. 2010). Two types of microplastics are found
in the environment viz. primary and secondary microplastics.
Primary microplastics
Primary microplastics are defined as microscopic plastic frag-
ments on the basis of size. On the basis of chemical composi-
tion, these primary microplastics are produced by the uninten-
tional release of intermediate plastic feedstock (i.e. pellets,
nurdles or mermaid tears) and occur as by-products of process-
es such as particulate emissions from industrial production,
maintenance of plastic or plastic-based materials, release of
dust and fibres, and deterioration of plastic products
(GESAMP 2015). The plastic pellets are the raw material for
manufacturing of plastic products (pellets to made plastic bags)
and microbeads in human health care commodities
(Magnusson et al. 2016). The plastic pellets comprises of poly-
ethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS) and poly-
olefin particles and are lipophilic in nature, i.e. they readily
adsorb harmful and toxic chemicals from surrounding marine
Fig. 1 Production process of the
artificial and natural polymers and
generation of macroplastics and
microplastics from synthetic
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24:2153021547 21531
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water on its surface. These tiny synthetic primary microplastics
are also used as abrasives in various industries (cosmetics,
cleaning products, pharmaceuticals and air-blasting media).
Many hydrophobic and aromatic compounds such as
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydro-
carbons (PAHs) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)
have been detected to bond on the surface of pellets collected
from marine environment (Cauwenberghe et al. 2015).
Fig. 2 Environmental
degradation of plastics under
different conditions
Fig. 3 Collection and
identification of microplastic
suspensions from the
environmental samples
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These widespread distribution of industrial resin pellets (2
5 mm) on the beaches of New Zealand, Canada, Bermuda,
Lebanon and Spain was reported where pellet concentrations
regularly exceeded 1000 pellets per meter of beach (Gregory
1978). The high concentrations of PCBs on polypropylene
pellets were reported on the beaches of Japan (Mato et al.
2001). The reports of presence of resin pellets from the
beaches of Singapore (Ng and Obbard 2006), India (Jayasiri
et al. 2013) and Belgium (Claessens et al. 2011) illustrated the
widespread distribution of these small microplastics.
These plastics are not only used in facial-cleansers, hand
cleansers and in cosmetics (Zitko and Hanlon 1991;Derraik
2002; Fendall and Sewell 2009) but also in drilling liquids
used for oil and gas exploration as well as in industrial abra-
sives (Gregory 1996;Derraik2002; Sundt 2014). For remov-
ing rust and paint, polyester microplastics scrubbers of particle
size 0.251.7 mm are used (Browne et al. 2007). In cosmetic
products, main ingredients for compact face powder and skin
cleansers are polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) gran-
ules (< 5 mm), polystyrene (PS) spheres (< 2 mm) and poly-
olefin particles (74420 μm), respectively (Beach 1972).
When analyzing skin cleansers, rough textured spherical par-
ticles, threads and unevenly shaped microparticles of blue or
white colour made up of PE and PS were identified (Zitko and
Hanlon 1991; Gregory 1996;Lassenetal.2015).
Microplastics can also be used as drug delivery system
(vector) and in dentist tooth polish, (Sundt et al. 2014;
Lassen et al. 2015). As end product microplastics from per-
sonal care, cosmetic and pharmaceutical sources can reach the
marine environment through wastewater.
Secondary microplastics
Secondary microplastics are defined as fragments of larger
plastic items that suffer fragmentation found both in marine
and terrestrial habitat (Thompson et al. 2004;Ryanetal.
2009). Weathering also causes the breakdown of large plastic
into tiny fragments. (Arthur et al. 2009). Another important
process is photodegradation by ultraviolet radiation from sun-
light which results in chemical bond cleavage of polymer
matrix by the oxidation process (Barnes et al. 2009).
Nanoplastic are minute plastic fragments with size < 100 nm
in at least two of its dimensions. The fragmentation or
weathering of larger plastic trash gives rise to micro- and
nanoplastics. The nanoplastics are produced during fragmen-
tation of synthetic fibers in case of washing of clothes and
during the deterioration of the plastic items such as expanded
polystyrene with an accelerated mechanical abrasion system
(Costa et al. 2016). The reduced size and high surface area-to-
volume ratio of these nanoplastics make them vulnerable to
ingestion by different marine organisms such as corals, phy-
toplanktons and zooplanktons which are the prime consumers
of the food chain and also allow persistent organic pollutants
(POPs) to adsorb on their surface which increases their poten-
tial hazardous effects. Figure S1 shows the category, debris
size with examples of debris, composition of debris and group
of marine animals affected by the microplastics.
Environmental fate of microplastics
Land-based sources of microplastics and microbeads (tiny
plastic particles of size < 2 mm) waste contribute approximate-
ly 80% of the total plastic litter in the marine ecosystem (Fig.
4). The domestic, industrial and coastal activities are the prime
routes for the entry of the plastic litter in the marine habitat
(Derraik 2002). The formation of plastic products from the
industrial feedstocks(Lechneretal.2014; Sadri and
Thompson 2014), spilling of tiny plastic pellets and resin pow-
ders from air-blasting process (Claessens et al. 2011;
Zbyszewski et al. 2014), coastal tourism, commercial fishing,
and aqua industries are the other means of microplastic pollu-
tion in the environment. Marine environment is mostly con-
taminated by these activities and plastics generated from these
origins enter into the water bodies via wastewater, rivers or by
wind currents (Thompson 2006;Moore2008). In this connec-
tion, ship-generated litter and careless handling of plastic fish-
ing gear are also the issue of concern (Ryan et al. 2009;EU
Commision 2011; Claessens et al. 2013; Desforges et al.
2014). The other sources of polymeric microplastics and
nanoplastics in marine habitat are cosmetic products, tooth-
pastes, hand cleansers and variety of cleaning products; which
enter the water channels via household and industrial drainage
systems as domestic effluents (Zitko and Hanlon 1991;
Gregory 1996; Fendall and Sewell 2009; Carr et al. 2016;
Duis and Coors 2016; Derraik 2002). Unlike macroplastics,
micro- and nanoplastics are not trapped into the wastewater
treatment plants (WWTP) and transported to sea via river with
wastewater effluent or with refuse site leachates. (Gregory
1996; Moore et al. 2002; Browne et al. 2007; Fendall and
Sewell 2009;Browneetal.2010). Accelerated transfer of ter-
restrial microplastic debris from land to water bodies are also
governed by the natural processes like flash-flooding, wind
blows and hurricanes (Barnes et al. 2009). Microplastics and
microbeads are transferred to the atmosphere via disintegration
of agricultural PE foils, at the time of drying of clothes and
from contaminated sewage sludge when used as agriculture
fertilizer (Liebezeit and Liebezeit 2014). In addition to that,
arrival of 3D printing for fast prototyping, use of polymeric
nanoparticles and nanocapsules for drug delivery and thermal
cutting of PS foam are also responsible for release of
nanoplastics (~ 20220 nm) and ultrafine polymer particles
(11.5116 nm) in the atmosphere (Zhang et al. 2012;
Pohlmann et al. 2013; Stephens et al. 2013).
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24:2153021547 21533
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Distribution of microplastics in marine ecosystem
Distribution in water bodies around the globe
During the last few years, several global surveys have been
carried out to evaluate the presence of floating microplastics
and microbeads (Cozar et al. 2014; Eriksen et al. 2014;
Reisser et al. 2015) in different water bodies around the globe
(Table 1). Li et al. 2016 reported that floating microplastics and
microbeads are the major concern in the Northern Hemisphere
subtropical gyres, in the North Atlantic region. The plastic litter
from terrestrial and marine sources was routed to the subtropical
gyres and resulted a special accumulation zonesof micropar-
ticles (Lebreton et al. 2012) which in turn make gyres the
hotspots for microplastics (Lebreton et al. 2012; Eriksen et al.
2013a). The high concentrations of micro plastics were first
discovered in the North Pacific central gyre (Moore et al.
2001)andthetermocean garbage patcheswas coined
(Kaiser 2010; Zhang et al. 2010). An estimated average of
26,898 particles km
, ranging in size from 0.355 to over
4.750 mm was found in the South Pacific subtropical gyre
(Eriksen et al. 2013a). Approximately 22.290 tonnes of floating
plastic debris (> 33.000 particles km
) was reported to accu-
mulate in the zone of North Pacific subtropical gyre which
include plastic fragments, pellets, PE, PP and thin plastic films
(Law et al. 2010). In the last 5 years, a total of five ocean gyres
have been reported (North Atlantic, South Atlantic, South
Indian, North Pacific and South Pacific) and almost 270.000
tons of microplastics was found around every five subtropical
gyres along the Bay of Bengal, costal Australia and the
Mediterranean Sea (Eriksen et al. 2014). Eriksen et al. 2013a
reported that natural processes like wind currents (boundary
currents) around the shores of Indonesia and Ecuador were
responsible for the high occurrence of microplastics debris in
the South Pacific subtropical gyre. An additional garbage patch
was reported to occur in the zone of Barents Sea (van Sebille
et al. 2012). Microplastics ranging between 38 and 234 parti-
were found in the Arctic Ocean (Obbard et al. 2014)
and most concerning fact is that the value was twofold higher
than the value previously reported for microplastic abundance
in Pacific gyre (Goldstein et al. 2012). The high level of floating
plastics found in Antarctic and Arctic waters (Barnes et al.
2010; Lusher et al. 2015) and in the deep Arctic seafloor
(Bergmann and Klages 2012) intimidate us about the fact that
in recent age, polar areas are acting as an additional global sink
of plastics and this is indeed alarming!
The marine habitat pollution due to microplastics debris
depends on several environmental factors like wind currents,
coastline geology and also on different anthropogenic activi-
ties (Barnes et al. 2009). The abundance of plastic debris in the
Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea was reported to be high
due to both natural and human factors. The plastic hotspots are
generally formed in the coastal areas where industrial activity
is high. Approximately 100,000 microplastic particles per cu-
bic metre were reported in a harbor area close to a PE produc-
tion plant in Sweden (Noren and Naustvoll 2010). The phe-
nomenon of microplastics transfer into these water bodies may
be explicated by the principle of hydrodynamics, and the the-
ory of strong currents generation in the upper parts of canyons
(Moore et al. 2001). The accumulation of microplastics (be-
tween 1.000 and 3.000 tonnes) in the Mediterranean Sea is
due to careless human activities and the peculiar hydrodynam-
ic uniqueness of this semi-enclosed basin where outflow of
water mainly occurs through a subterranean water layer. The
Fig. 4 Different sources of
microplastic from the
environment and effect on sea life
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phenomenon of sedimentation is also an important factor for
turbulence/agitation coexist with the convergence zone of sea-
bed sediment movements will favor sedimentation process
(Jegou and Salomon 1991;Kanehiroetal.1995).
The density of different plastic polymers found in the nat-
ural environment is shown in Table 2. Plastic polymers such
as PS, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chlo-
ride (PVC) having specific gravity > 1 are usually deposited in
the benthos whereas PE and PP with specific gravity < 1 floats
on the surface of water. In Australia, degradation of larger PP
and PE is the main source of microplastic in surface water
bodies (Reisser et al. 2013). The main cause of variations in
the density of different plastic debris in the marine environ-
ment is the formation of microbial biofilm on polymer surface,
which leads to colonization of polymer (by algae or inverte-
brates such as crabs, lobsters, sea urchins, worms star fish and
jelly fish) and ultimately increases the density of plastic debris
(Anthony and Andrady 2011).
It is critical to establish certain methodologies to interpret
the way abundance and composition of microplastics vary
with various factors such as location, depth, habitat and topog-
raphy. The behavior of microplastic in marine habitat should
be considered in a dynamic and changing perspective since
Tabl e 1 Distribution of plastic debris in water bodies around the globe
Location Regions Water bodies Plastic type Plastic sizes Plastic (%) Reference
Atlantic Ocean North Sea Marine Macroplastics > 20 mm mesh 48.3 Galgani et al. (2000)
Channel East Marine Macroplastics > 20 mm mesh 84.6 Galgani et al. (2000)
Rio de la Plata River Macroplastics 74 Acha et al. (2003)
Bay of Seine Marine Macroplastics > 20 mm mesh 89 Galgani et al. (2000)
Celtic Sea Marine Macroplastics > 20 mm mesh 29.5 Galgani et al. (2000)
Portuguese coast Marine Microplastics > 5 mm 43.891.7 Frias et al. (2014)
Estuary Microplastics 2.23 ± 1.65 mm Lima et al. (2014)
Baltic Sea Baltic Sea Marine Macroplastics > 20 mm mesh 35.7 Galgani et al. (2000)
Pacific Ocean North Pacific
Central Gyre
Marine Macroplastics and
0.355 to > 4.76 mm 98 Moore et al. (2001)
North Pacific
River ––Moore et al. (2001)
North Pacific,
River ––Moore et al. (2001)
Waters around
Marine Macroplastics and
0.4 to 82.6 mm 80 Reisser et al. (2013)
The South
Marine Macroplastics and
0.355 to > 4.75 mm 88.8 Eriksen et al. (2013a)
NE Pacific
Marine Microplastics 64.8 to 5810 μm75 Desforgesetal.(2014)
South Sea of
Marine < 10 Lee et al. (2006)
Mediterranean Sea Adriatic Sea Marine Macroplastics > 20 mm mesh 69.5 Galgani et al. (2000)
East Corsica Marine 45.8 Galgani et al. 2000
Gulf of Lion Marine Macroplastics > 10 mm mesh 70.5 Galgani et al. (2000)
Greece Gulfs Marine 56 Koutsodendris et al. (2008)
The USA Laurentian
Great Lakes
Lake Macroplastics and
0.3550.999 mm
1.0004.749 mm
> 4.75 mm (2%)
90 Eriksen et al. (2013b)
Tamar Estuary Estuary Microplastics (82%)
and macroplastics (19%)
< 1 to > 5 mm 82 Sadri and Thompson (2014)
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24:2153021547 21535
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suspended particles can descend to sediments and remobilized
to water column by bioturbation, resuspension or by hydrody-
namic phenomena.
Distribution in beaches, sediments and shorelines
around the globe
Not only the water bodies but also the beaches are suffering
from microplastics pollution. The contamination of beaches
by plastic debris is summarized in Table 3. Fok and Cheung
2015 have reported that 25 beaches along the coastline of
Hong Kong were polluted with more than 90% microplastics
(0.3155 mm) consisted with expanded PS (92%), fragments
(5%) and pellets (3%). The mean microplastics abundance
(5595 items m
) is higher for beaches in Hong Kong than
the international averages, making the country hotspot of ma-
rine plastic pollution. At Belgian coast the average
microplastic concentration along the beach sediment was
found to be 92.8 particles kg
dry sediment, of which fibers
were the major candidates (82.1 particles kg
). The fibers
mainly used in fishing nets, carpets and ropes comprises of
nylon, polyvinyl alcohol and PP (Claessens et al. 2011). Lee
et al. (2013) reported that abundance of microplastic in the
rainy season was higher because natural phenomenon like
heavy rainstorms, wind currents and hurricanes congregated
plastic debris on beaches. Ivar do Sul et al. (2009) found that
in the beaches of Fernando de Noronha, (Equatorial Western
Atlantic) which are divided into two parts, viz. leeward and
windward beaches, the concentration of plastic litter was
found higher on latter beaches compared to first one because
of surface currents, (Debrot et al. 1999; Ivar do Sul et al.
2009). The high ratio of microplastics litter was also reported
in non-industrial distant locations in Tonga, Rarotonga and
Fiji, the Pitcairn Islands, the Hawaiian and Chile Islands
(Benton 1995; Gregory 1999;Corcoranetal.2009;
Hidalgo-Ruz and Thiel 2013). The high abundance of 7.49 g
and 68.83 items m
of plastic litter was estimated on sandy
beaches in Mumbai. The size fractionation analysis of plastics
showed that 41.85% microplastics (15 mm) were predomi-
nant on beaches which enhances the high risk to marine or-
ganisms due to possible ingestion and transfer along food web
(Jayasiri et al. 2013). The beaches of Guanabara Bay on the
Brazilian coastline have been recognized as one of the most
polluted beaches due to the presence of high ratio of tiny
fragments (microplastics). Out of total plastic debris,
microplastics fragments contributed 56% of the total detected
debris, along with styrofoam (26.7%), pellets (9.9%) and fi-
bres (7.2%). The concentration of microplastic ranged from 12
to 1300 particles m
on these beaches (Carvalho and Neto
2016). In another study on the beaches of the island of Malta,
the high abundance of plastic production pellets (resin pellets)
were reported (> 1000 m
at the surface) on the backshores of
beaches (Tuner and Holmes 2011). In Singapores coastal en-
vironment, microplastic residues comprising of PE, PP and PS
fragments were detected in the surface and subsurface layer of
coastal water bodies (Ng and Obbard 2006). The presence of
microplastics (maximum 3 particles kg
) in Singapore coast-
line is mainly due to establishment of industries and recrea-
tional practices as well as from shipping discharge.
The spatial patterns of microplastics distribution have been
described along an estuarine shoreline of English Channel in
the UK where high quantities of microplastic fragments were
dumped along the shoreline by the action of wind and water
currents (Browne et al. 2011). Deep-sea sediments collected
from Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean
found to contain microplastics in the form of fibers and abun-
dance was up to four orders of magnitude than in contaminat-
ed sea-surface water. This data providing additional evidence
for a large and hitherto unknown repository of microplastics in
these oceans sediments (Van Cauwenberghe et al. 2013;
Pham et al. 2014; Tubau et al. 2015).
Nocuous effect of microplastic pollution in marine
Microplastics are persistent in the maritime environment and
due to their small size, they are bioavailable to corals, zoo-
planktons, lobsters, worms, sea urchins, fish etc. (Browne
et al. 2008). When these nondegradable microplastics are
ingested by these marine organisms, they get bioaccumulated
in the food chain (Gregory 1996) and finally reach at higher
tropic levels (Carpenter and Smith 1972). Macroplastics,
microplastics and microbeads are harmful for marine organ-
isms and can cause serious diseases if the organisms ingested
these pollutants (Fendall and Sewell 2009)(Fig.5). Around
the globe, microplastic litter has been detected in seabirds,
turtles, crustaceans and fish (Derraik 2002;Coleetal.2011).
These marine organisms are affected by the microplastics due
to the clogging of intestinal tract, suppression of feeding due
to satiation, inhibition of gastric enzyme secretion, imbalance
of steroid hormone levels, delay in ovulation and infertility
(Azzarello and Vleet 1987; McCauley and Bjorndal 1999;
Wright et al. 2013). The ingestion and accumulation of plastic
debris in marine biota is illustrated in Table 4. The pernicious
Tabl e 2 Density range of plastic polymers
Polymer Density (g/cm
Polyethylene (PE) 0.930.98
Polystyrene (PS) 1.041.11
Polypropylene (PP) 0.890.91
Polyamide (PA) 1.131.5
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) 1.201.45
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) 1.381.39
Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) 1.191.35
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and recurring effects of microplastics ingestion have long-
standing impact and leads to reduction in food consumption
resulting in mortality in marine organisms (Derraik 2002;
Wright et al. 2013).
Transfer of microplastics to the food chain
Microplastics are ingested by an array of marine biota because
of their microsize as well as their presence in both pelagic and
benthic ecosystems (Betts 2008;Thompsonetal.2009). Not
only the problems with pollutant transference in food chain is
an issue of concern but the capacity of absorb pollutants from
water and pass to other trophic level by biomagnifications is
also a serious threat. Microplastics are composed of toxic ad-
ditives and monomers which have reasonably large area to
volume ratio and thus are effective in absorbing hydrophobic
pollutants from the water bodies (Mato et al. 2001;Thompson
et al. 2007). Very low concentrations of persistent organic
pollutants (POPs) which are found in marine habitat are taken
up by microplastics via the process of partitioning. The hydro-
phobicity factor of POPs is responsible for their enhanced
absorption in microplastic litter and upon ingestion by marine
biota; these hazardous contaminants (POPs) are transferred
along the marine food chain. Not only phytoplankton and
corals consume microplastics and microbeads and absorbing
their toxins, but also a wide range of marine animals getting
affected. The exposure of microplastics to harmful algae pro-
duces phycotoxins that could adversely affect indirectly to
human health and economy. Phycotoxins are mostly passed
within the toxic alga and transferred to the plankton or benthos
(bivalves or crustaceans) by feeding. For example, diarrethic
and paralytic shellfish poisonings (DSP and PSP) are caused
by algal toxins produced by the exposure of microplastics that
efficiently accumulate in shellfish and can transfer in food
web and indirectly cause hazardous symptoms in humans
(Teegarden and Cembella 1996;Monsetal.1998; Campbell
et al. 2005). The algal toxins can accumulate in marine food
webs and can pass from one trophic level to the next.
Following are the species wise discussion about the effect of
microplastics pollution in marine habitat.
The geologic formations of coral reefs provide coastal protec-
tion from the oceans destructive forces and have the highest
biological diversity in the marine environment (Yap 2012).
They provide habitat to one-third of all marine fish species
and thousands of other organisms and cover 0.2% of the
oceans area (Barnette 2001). Corals get energy from photo-
synthesis by symbiotic algae within their tissues, but they also
nourish on a variety of other food including phytoplankton,
zooplankton and other small organisms that live in seawater.
The microplastics (25 mm) in the marine environment can be
ingested by aquatic life forms and these amphipods, copepods,
phytoplankton and zooplankton are the main food source of
corals. Therefore microplastic contamination directly affects
the health of corals as these materials cannot be digested by
the corals and accumulated within their digestive systems
(Ferrier-Pages et al. 2003). Accumulated plastic debris can
entrap branching species of hard corals, make them
Tabl e 3 Distribution of plastic debris in beach sediment
Location Plastic type Plastic sizes Occurence Reference
Mumbai, India Microplastics and
< 5 to 100 mm Average abundance of 7.49
g and 68.83 items m
Jayasiri et al. (2013)
Belgian coast Microplastics 38 to 1 mm Average 92.8 particles kg
dry sediment
Claessens et al. (2011)
San Diego, California Microplastics and
< 5 to 50 mm 2453 individual plastic debris Van et al. (2012)
Hong Kong Microplastic 0.315 to < 5 mm Average abundance of 5595
items m
and maximum
258,408 items m
Fok and Cheung (2015)
Hawaii Microplastics and
12.8 mm
(43%), 2.84.75 mm
(48%), > 4.75 mm (9%)
Ave r age w e i ght o f d e bri s p e r
sample was 23.38 g plastic
McDermid and McMullen (2004)
Australia Microplastics and
Average abundance of 113 items
or 1.69 kg of debris per beach.
Slavin et al. (2012)
Western coast
of Portugal
50 μm to 20 cm Average density of 185.1 items m
Martins and Sobral (2011)
Malta Island Microplastics 1.9 to 5.6 mm > 1000 particles m
Tuner and Holmes (2011)
Singapore Microplastics and
Maximum 3 particles kg
Ng and Obbard (2006)
Brazilian Coast Microplastics and
Average density of 82.1 items m
Carvalho and Neto (2016)
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fragmented and habitat heterogeneity has been reduced, which
in turn support macroalgal colonization. (UNEP 2009). The
first report on microplastic ingestion in coral reef in the area
near Australias Great Barrier Reef (GRE, 18°31S146°23E)
revealed that microplastics were present in low concentrations
in marine locations. A feeding trial experiment on corals
showed that corals mistake microplastics as their food and
can consume up to ~ 50 μgcm
plastic; the rates which
is similar to their ingestion of plankton and species like
Artemia nauplii. After ingestion of high concentration of
microplastics by corals, mesenterial tissue within the coral
gut cavity were found to be the most affected area which
ultimately damage the corals health (Hall et al. 2015).
The photosynthetic phytoplankton fixes carbon from inor-
ganic CO
and energy from sunlight. Microplastics pene-
trate cell walls and membranes of planktons and reduce
chlorophyll concentrations in the green algae (Nerland
et al. 2014). The heterotrophic plankton ciliates uptake
microplastics through phagocytosis (Laist 1987). The zoo-
plankton consists of a group of free-floating heterotrophic
invertebrates and have significant role in marine ecosys-
tems because this group of marine organisms serve as key
members of the marine food chain (Cozar et al. 2014). The
omnipresent nature of microplastic in the water column
invoked interactions between these tiny plastic fragments
and zooplankton and the effects of such interactions are of
great importance because zooplankton provides a key
transfer of energy to the higher trophic levels. Therefore it
is possible that accumulated pollutants may pass to the
higher trophic levels through this mechanism which ulti-
mately results great threat to the health of the marine eco-
system. Zooplankton covers large number of species which
have different life cycle stages and exhibit different range
of feeding mechanisms (Wirtz 2012). Laboratory experi-
ments revealed that zooplankton potentially absorbs tiny
plastic latex beads by filter feeding mode (Frost 1977;
Hart 1991; Wilson 1973). In a recent study, the ingestion
of microplastics (< 5 mm) in 15 different zooplankton taxa
ranging from copepods to jellyfish was examined (Cole
et al. 2013). In Baltic Sea, different species of zooplanktons
which includes copepods, shrimps, cladocerans, worms,
ciliates and polychaete larvae ingested microplastics
(Setala et al. 2014). The highest proportion of microplastics
ingestion in zooplankton species was found for pelagic
polychaete larvae of the genus Marenzelleria. The ingested
microparticles could either pass through the gut or block or
accumulate in the digestive tract of zooplanktons leading to
Fig. 5 Negative effects of microplastic on animal health
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Tab l e 4 Plastic ingestion in aquatic animals
Marine organisms Location Plastic type Plastic sizes Occurrence (%) Reference
Whiting, blue whiting, Atlantic horse
mackerel, poor cod, John Dory, red
gurnard, dragonet, red band fish, solenette
and thick back sole
English Channel Macroplastics and microplastics 0.13 to 14.3 mm 36.5 Lusher et al. (2013)
Cololabis saira,Hygophum reinhardtii,
Loweina interrupta,Myctophum
NorthPacific Microplastics 1to2.79mm 35 Boergeretal.(2010)
Anchovy (Stolephorus commersonnii) Alappuzha, India Microplastics 1.14 to 2.5 mm 37.5 Kripa et al. (2014)
Herring, gray gurnard, whiting, horse
mackerel, haddock, atlantic mackerel, and cod
North Sea Microplastics 0.04 to 4.8 mm 2.6 Foekema et al. (2013)
Lampris sp. North Pacific Macroplastics and microplastics 49.1 mm 29 Choy and Drazen (2013)
Caretta caretta Adriatic Sea Macroplastics and microplastics 35.2 Lazar and Gracan (2011)
Mediterranean Sea Macroplastics and microplastics 37 Revelles et al. (2007)
Northern Pacific Macroplastics and microplastics 35 Parker et al. (2005)
Chelonia mydas Brazilian coast 70 Santos et al. (2015)
Brazilian coast
Macroplastics and microplastics (76%) 05cm,
(23%) 510
cm, (1%) N10
45 Da Silva Mendes et al. (2015)
South west Altantic Macroplastics and microplastics 0.53.0cm 90 Carmanetal.(2014)
Marine invertebrates
Mytilus edulis North Sea, Germany Microplastics 5 to 25 μm Van Cauwenberghe and Janssen (2014)
Brown shrimp (Crangon crangon) Belgium Microplastic 300 to1000 μmDevrieseetal.(2014)
Euphausia pacifica Northeast Pacific Ocean Microplastic 816.1 ± 107.7 μm 5.8 Desforges et al. (2015)
Neocalanus cristatus Northeast Pacific Ocean Microplastic 555.5 ± 148.7 μm2.6 Desforges et al. (2015)
Zooplankton Western
coastal waters
Microplastic 7.3 to 30.6 μm87 Coleetal.(2013)
Franciscana dolphins (Pontoporia blainvillei) Northern coast of Argentina Macroplastic 0.2 to 11.4 cm 28.1 Denuncio et al. (2011)
Mesoplodon mirus North and west coast of Ireland Microplastic and macroplastic 0.3 mm7.1 cm 85 Lusher et al. (2015)
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24:2153021547 21539
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disturbed feeding and digestion. Cole et al. (2013)reported
that the ingestion of polystyrene microplastic by zooplank-
ton was retained in the gut up to 7 days whereas for shore
crab Carcinus maenus,thetimewasupto14days(Watts
et al. 2014). In some other cases, microplastics particles
were translocated from the gut to other internal organs of
the zooplankton organism. It was reported that
microplastics were transferred from the gut of Mytilus
edulis into its circulatory system, where they remained for
up to 48 days, without having a significant biological effect
upon the individual (Browne et al. 2008). The microplastics
are egested by zooplankton species in the form of faecal
pellets and this excreted material is then available to pelag-
column. These faecal materials are sinks out of the water
column to the seafloor which make their availability in the
benthos (Setala et al. 2014).
Benthic organisms
The benthic community is an essential constituent of marine
ecosystem and comprises of approximately 98% of overall
marine biota. The benthic invertebrates such as oysters, blue
mussels, barnacles and lobsters have all been reported to in-
gest microplastics (Nerland et al. 2014). Suspension-feeders
like blue mussels (bivalves) have been found to ingest
microplastics from sea water. A study on farmed blue mussels
from Germany near North Sea was found that this species
ingested microplastics of around 0.36 ± 0.07 particles g
(wet weight) while oysters from Brittany, France near North
Atlantic Ocean also showed the presence of microplastics of
0.47 ± 0.16 particles g
(wet weight) in their body (van
Cauwenberghe and Janssen 2014). The benthic barnacles
from the North Pacific who are suspension feeders also
contained 33.5% of microplastic particles (Goldstein and
Goodwin 2013). In the Clyde Bay (West coast of Scotland),
presence of microplastics (< 5 mm) in the form of tangled ball
in the gut region of lobsters (Nephrops norvegicus) was evi-
dent (Murray and Cowie 2011). It is predicted that benthic
fauna such as crustacean, polychaetes and bivalves when
served as a food source for omnivorous lobsters; microplastic
was then consumed by this benthic organism via feeding pro-
cess (Murray and Cowie 2011). In laboratory conditions, sea
urchin larvae have been found to absorb microplastic particles
of 1040 μM size range, similar to the size of their prey serv-
ing as their food. The benthic worm Arenicola marina com-
prises of high lipid content and for this reason, they are very
important member in marine food chains. Unfortunately dur-
ing feeding this worm also indirectly ingests high ratio of
microplastics (Wright et al. 2013). Experimental studies have
shown that extensive and chronic exposure of polystyrene
microplastic on A. marina results reduction in feeding aptitude
as well as reduction in weight (Besseling et al. 2013).
The presence of microplastic was reported in approximately
30% of the individual fish species (Possatto et al. 2011;
Lusher et al. 2013). The presence of plastic polymers such
as PS, polyamide, polyester and low-density polyethylene
(LDPE) were reported in pelagic feeding fish species in
English Channel (Lusher et al. 2013). The long-term study
of Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes)showedthatevenmod-
erate concentrations of microplastics (8 ngL
of PE of size
< 0.5 mm) in sea (San Diego Bay, CA) can affect fish in a sub-
lethal manner (Nerland et al. 2014). The bottom-feeding fish
(Gerreidae) from a tropical estuary in northeast Brazil were
reported to be contaminated with microplastics, and their
stomach was mostly affected (Ramos et al. 2012). In the
North Pacific Central Gyre, presence of plastic fragments
was reported in planktivorous fish. The primary route of ex-
posure of microplastics is the direct ingestion as food or in-
gestion by mistake for prey items. The accumulation of
microplastics (< 5 mm) in the gut of fish results starvation
and malnourishment of fish and ultimately leading to death
(Boerger et al. 2010). It was reported that larger-sized
microplastic beads (5 mm) stayed longer time in the fishs
gut in comparison to smaller beads (2 mm) (Dos Santos and
Jobling 1992). These results entail that larger-sized
microplastic beads are more harmful for the marine fish com-
munity as compare to smaller fragments; because smaller
microplastics can be excreted via natural faeces. Apart from
fish, ingestion of different type of microplastics was studied in
Norway lobster, where 83% of the lobsters were found to be
infected with microfibers (Murray and Cowie 2011).
Sea birds such as the albatross, shearwaters, petrels and north-
ern fulmar fed at the sea surface and the ingested microplastic
gets accumulated in their stomach. In the sea birds, approxi-
mately 3035% of the plastics were found in the form of
industrial pellets (Ryan 1987; Robards et al. 1995;Blight
and Burger 1997). The birds from the south Atlantic region
showed presence of plastic pellets in their digestive system,
and the plastic was excreted in the form of faeces (Ryan 2008).
In the similar manner, the presence of tiny plastic fragments
was seen in digestive system of short-tailed shearwater
(Puffinus tenuirostris) originated from the North Sea
(Vlietstra and Parga 2002). Regurgitation is the process by
which seabirds are able to remove microplastics from their
digestive tracts and same has been reported for Larus
glaucescens (Lindborg et al. 2012). Kuhn and van Franeker
(2012), reported that in comparison to adult northern fulmars
(Fulmarus glacialis) younger one get exposed with more
microplastic during the feeding process which ultimately ac-
cumulated in their intestines. Plastic ingestion negatively
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affects the feeding habits of the seabirds leading to the starva-
tion and loss of fitness (Tanaka et al. 2013).
Large marine animals (marine mammals and turtles)
The hazardous effects of microplastic litter have been reported
for many large marine organisms viz. sea turtles, whales, har-
bour seals and polar bears (Derraik 2002). In Brazil, approx-
imately 60.5% of the sea turtles were found to be infected by
microplastics accumulation in their digestive track (Nerland
et al. 2014). Another marine mammal, Baleen whales were
highly prone to microplastic contamination as this class of
marine organisms were involved in filtering organisms that
filter seawater and that facilitate the entry of microplastics in
their system (Fossi et al. 2012). Also due to high fat and lipid
content, whales are highly potential to ingest and accumulate
microplastics in stomach and intestine. Recently there are nu-
merous reports of death of stranded whales having a lot of
microplastics litter in their gut. The ingestion of microplastics
was recorded in the stomach and intestine of harbour seals
(Phoca vitulina) (Bravo Rebolledo et al. 2013). Microplastic
particles with a diameter of 1 mm were recorded in the
Hookers sea lions and scat of fur seals (Goldsworthy et al.
1997; McMahon et al. 1999). It is predicted that polar bears
are also susceptible to microplastics ingestion but yet no
reports have been published on this topic. An overall repre-
sentation of the environmental fate of microplastics has been
depicted in Fig. 6.
Harmful effect on human health
The general human population may be exposed to
microplastics from different sources such as primary
microplastics in cosmetics, toothpastes, scrubs and hand
washes. Apart from toxicity effects of microplastics, hazard-
ous substances such as phthalates or PCBs within the
microplastics or other pollutant adsorbed to the surface of
microplastics may contribute to the dietary exposure of
humans (Lassen et al. 2015). The potential buildup of
microplastics in seafood also has consequences for the health
of human consumers. Microplastics have been shown to be
ingested by several commercial sea species such as mussel,
oyster, crab, sea cucumber and fish and transferred along food
web. Unfortunately, no concrete data are available for the
chemical composition, particle size, shape or concentration
of microplastics particles in food (BfR 2015). The health haz-
ards resulting from the use of face washes, hand cleansers,
toothpastes and dental care products containing PE
microplastic particles has been evaluated by the German
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR 2015). They
Fig. 6 An overall representation of the environmental fate of microplastic
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24:2153021547 21541
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concluded that microplastic particles used in face pack peel-
ings and shower products are larger than 1 μm, and prolonged
use of these products lead to absorption of PE and PP particles
in the tissues which ultimately results skin damage.
Microplastics and microbeads particles from toothpaste can
unconsciously be swallowed and are absorbed via the gastro-
intestinal tract (Lassen et al. 2015). The alternate ingestion of
microparticles can cause alteration in chromosomes which
lead to infertility, obesity and cancer (GESAMP 2015). In case
of women, estrogenic mimicking chemicals can cause breast
cancer. It is evident that humans are exposed to microplastics
through their diet and the high ratio of microplastic pollutants
in seafood creates a major risk to food safety (Van
Cauwenberghe and Janssen 2014). Therefore, a detail analysis
and assessment of the potential health risk of microplastics
coming from a range of foods across the total diet should be
carried out to evaluate the causative risk of contaminated ma-
rine food on human health.
Policies adopted by various organizations worldwide
All over the world, a referendum on the plastic bag is becom-
ing more and more popular. An all-out banned on single-use
plastic bags was imposed by California recently by passing
Prop 67 bill (Plastic Pollution Coalition 2016a). In the similar
terms, Scotlands plastic bag ban policy prevented approxi-
mately around 650 million bags from entering the waste
stream (Plastic Pollution Coalition 2016b). In Ireland, in order
to control plastic bags, Lowenthals bill was introduced and
according to which a minimum fine of 10-cent fee was
charged on plastic shopping bag and a fine of 4 cents was
employed on plastic bag that can be recycled (Table 5). The
funds collected by the fine were then transferred to the Land
and Water Conservation Fund for the environment protection
and conservation project (Plastic Pollution Coalition 2016a).
Due to the high tax on bags, 90% reduction on the use of
plastic bags was observed. The local governments of the
USA and other developed countries of the world have formu-
lated many rules and implemented fines for the use of plastic
bags. Because of these steps almost 6090% reduction in the
usage of plastic bags has been noticed (Plastic Pollution
Coalition 2016a). Microbeads are inert PE and PP particles
which are used in face washes and tooth paste constitute a
significant amount of marine pollution. To check this pollu-
tion, many European countries have imposed an all-out ban on
the products containing microbeads. In the USA, President
Barack Obama had signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act
of 2015which was approved unanimously by the House
Energy and Commerce Committee to minimize microbeads
pollution in waterways (Pallone 2015). The federal adminis-
tration of different countries such as Canada, Austria,
Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany
and Sweden are also imposing an all-out ban for the use of
microbeads in personal care products (Perschbacher 2016). In
California, complete ban was imposed on use of microplastic
particle abrasives microbeads, in different domestic products
such as facial scrubs, washing detergents, scrubs, creams and
toothpaste. Not only banning the microplastic in personal care
products, California assembly also passed Assembly Bill
888which sets up the tough rules and regulations against
Tabl e 5 Policies adopted by
various organizations Country State Policy
USA California California is the first state in the USA to ban single-use
plastic shopping bags by passing Prop 67 bill.
USA San Francisco San Francisco imposed a complete ban on the sale
of plastic water bottles.
Ireland Lowenthals bill was introduced according to which a
minimum 10-cent fee was charged on each bag provided
by retailers to carry out groceries and other purchased items
and 4 cents per bag if they have a qualifying recycling program.
USA The Senate votes unanimously to pass H.R. 1321 Microbead-Free
Waters Act of 2015. This bill amends the Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act to ban rinse-off cosmetics that contain intentionally
added plastic microbeads beginning on January 1, 2018 and to ban
manufacturing of these cosmetics beginning on July 1, 2017.
USA California Assembly Bill 888was introduced which sets up the strongest
protections against the use of these harmful and toxic microplastic
beads. This legislation ensures that personal care products will be
formulated with environmentally safe alternatives to protect our
waterways and oceans.
Canada Canadian Environmental Protection Act was introduced to ban the
use of microbeads in the cosmetic products
Data collected from Plastic Pollution Coalition
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the use of toxic microplastic beads and put strong emphasis on
the use of natural and eco-friendly alternatives in the cosmetic
products to protect our ecosystem (Plastic Pollution Coalition
2015). San Francisco becomes the first American state to ban
plastic water bottles (Plastic Pollution Coalition 2016c). The
microbeads are in the list of toxic substances formulated by
the Canadian Environmental Protection Acts and there is
complete ban on the use of this hazardous pollutant. They also
constituted regulations that would ban the manufacture, im-
port and export of personal care products containing
microbeads (The Globe and Mail Newspaper 2016).
Different national and international social organizations have
pleaded the customers and industries to completely exclude
the use of microbeads in the personal care products (Plastic
Soup Foundation 2016). The series of supermarket companies
such as Johnson & Johnson, Livon and LOréal have commit-
ted to phase out these microplastics and microbeads from their
personal care products (Copeland 2015).
Conclusions and future direction
Plastic pollution in the marine ecosystem is in alarming con-
dition because they are omnipresent in the natural surround-
ings, has harmful effects on marine biota and transferred along
food web, which is an issue of concern. There is a pressing
need to take severe measures to address the problem at inter-
national, national and local levels. Developing countries like
India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand,
Korea, China, Sri Lanka and Philippines are main contributors
of plastic pollution in the marine atmosphere. Many develop-
ing countries have not formulated rules and regulations to
control microplastic pollution. Therefore, it is recommended
that local governments should introduce strong legislative
rules and should encourage research to monitor the long-
term effects of plastic debris in the environment. New scien-
tific data on microplastics pollution should be formulated for
conservation management, for normative guidelines and
strengthen the basis for educational campaigns.
The public awareness regarding microplastic pollution is
very significant because this will govern their behaviour to-
wards plastic consumption and most importantly the negative
effects of the plastic pollution are still unrecognizable by the
general population. Different campaigns and programmes
should be adopted which may play an important role in public
awareness against the long-term and chronic effects of plastics
pollution. Several socially active international organisations,
such as International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) should ar-
range certain campaigns on a global scale to minimize
microplastics pollution.
Finally, plastics manufacturing industries should take ac-
countability and take care of their end-of-life products.
Government should set zero tolerancefor this issue and
compel the industries to use biodegradable materials such as
starch instead of nondegradable material. This biodegradable
material will then be decomposed by microorganisms (bacte-
ria/fungi) and ultimately reducing the lifetime of these plastics
in the surroundings. In industries, the process of recycling or
upgrading of plastic litter should be encouraged. Recently, the
tertiary recycling of plastic has emerged as one of the advance
techniques where plastic materials are converted into smaller
fragments which further can used as feedstock for the manu-
facture of new petrochemicals. More reviews on this topic
should be published and detail research on this topic should
be carried out so that people can have the awareness related to
this future threat.
Acknowledgments SS, gratefully acknowledge SERB-DST, Govt. of
India for the financial support (PDF/2016/000818). Authors thank Dr.
Shubhra Majumder, CCC, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
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... Mikroplastik ini dapat ditemukan baik di habitat laut maupun darat (Sharma & Chatterjee, 2017). Mayoritas mikroplastik yang tercatat di lingkungan laut Asia adalah mikroplastik sekunder (Shahul Hamid et al., 2018). ...
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Pencemaran mikroplastik akhir-akhir ini dinyatakan sebagai kontaminan yang luar biasa dari semua komponen lingkungan. Pencemaran mikroplastik karena tingginya minat atas permintaan plastik sehingga plastik terus diproduksi. Sifatnya yang unik yaitu ringan, tahan lama, serba guna dan biaya produksi yang rendah menyebabkan produksi plastik meningkat. Tercatat bahwa produksi plastik dunia hampir dua kali lipat dalam dua puluh tahun terakhir menjadi sekitar 400 juta ton per tahun. Sebagian dari limbah plastik dibuang ke lingkungan, masalah yang diperburuk oleh penggunaan umum produk plastik yang tidak dikelola dengan baik dan dibuang secara tidak tepat. Kehadirannya yang tersebar luas menjadi kontaminan global karena dapat diidentifikasi di seluruh perairan, termasuk air laut, sedimen, pasir juga sudah terkontaminasi dalam air minum. Keberadaan dan pertambahan mikroplastik di berbagai sumber saat ini merupakan data yang tidak terbantahkan. Lebih jauh lagi, fakta bahwa berbagai makhluk hidup terus-menerus bersentuhan dengan partikel-partikel ini tidak dapat disangkal, yang dapat memicu berbagai konsekuensi berbahaya bagi populasi individu, seluruh komunitas, dan mungkin juga bagi manusia. Oleh karena itu pentingnya penelitian-penelitian dilakukan agar mengetahui keberadaan mikroplastik dilingkungan. Dalam buku ini dapat membantu para ilmuan atau peneliti untuk mengidentifikasi keberadaan mikroplastik dimulai tahap persiapan, pengambilan sampel, jenis-jenis alat yang dapat digunakan, pelabelan sampel sebelum dianalisis, ekstraksi sampel dan berbagai metode analisis dalam pengukuran mikroplastik, juga dapat mengetahui kuantifikasi visual partikel yang mirip dengan mikroplastik, serta cara untuk mengontrol dan mengurangi kontaminasi saat bekerja.
... Plastics are synthetic polymers mainly derived from the petrochemical industry. Although some sources of biodegradable plastics are produced by natural sources (cellulose, cornstarch, soybeans, etc.), those coming from the oil industry are the most commonly manufactured and can cause a greater impact on nature since they remain longer in the environment [1]. ...
Full-text available
Nowadays, a large amount and variety of plastic is being produced and consumed by human beings on an enormous scale. Microplastics and nanoplastics (MNPLs) have become ubiquitous since they can be found in many ecosystem components. Plastic particles can be found in soil, water, and air. The routes of human exposure are numerous, mainly involving ingestion and inhalation. Once ingested, these particles interact with the gastrointestinal tract and digestive fluids. They can adsorb substances such as additives, heavy metals, proteins, or even microorganisms on their surface, which can cause toxicity. During inhalation, they can be inhaled according to their respective sizes. Studies have reported that exposure to MNPLs can cause damage to the respiratory tract, creating problems such as bronchitis, asthma, fibrosis, and pneumothorax. The reports of boards and committees indicate that there is little data published and available on the toxicity of MNPLs as well as the exposure levels in humans. Despite the well-established concept of MNPLs, their characteristics, and presence in the environment, little is known about their real effects on human health and the environment.
... As the plastic comes in contact with nature, the communication between the natural elements and the plastic waste material can cut down the larger plastic pieces into smaller plastic trash (Waring et al., 2018). Additionally, smaller plastic elements are generally produced and added to customer kinds of stuff like personal care products which are thrown away after use, and this is another significant reason for plastic pollution in the environment (Hernandez et al., 2019) (Sharma et al., 2017). Depending on the diameter of the plastic particles, they can be classified into nano-plastics (NPS) and micro-plastics (MPs), with the diameter of NPs being 1 to 100 or 1000 nm and micro-plastics (MPs) being less than 5mm respectively (Jiang et al., 2020). ...
The spreading and abundance of micro and nano plastics into the world are so wide that many researchers used them as main pointers of the modern and contemporary period defining a new historical era. However, the inferences of microplastics are not yet systematically understood. There is the significant difficulty involved to know their impact due to dissimilar physical-chemical characteristics that make micro-plastics complex stressors. Micro-plastics carry toxic chemicals in the ecosystems, therefore serving as vectors of transport, and, on the other hand, a combination of dangerous chemicals that are further voluntarily during their manufacture as additives to increase polymer properties and extend their life. In this chapter, the authors prominently discuss the different kinds of literature on micro and nano-plastic exposure pathways and their probable risk to human health to encapsulate present information with the target of enhanced attention, upcoming study in this area, and information gaps.
... Non-biodegradable compounds in the aquatic environment especially in the coastal regions, in particular abandoned fishing gear, carry bags, synthetic packaging materials, and plastic coverings, are harmful to marine life (Kaladharan et al., 2020). The MPs are small pieces of plastic with a diameter of 5 mm or less and are deposited in marine ecosystems (Sharma and Chatterjee, 2017). The MPs may be ingested by a wide range of marine species, including corals, plankton, marine invertebrates, fish, and whales, and are eventually transferred to the food chain (Thompson et al., 2009;Nelms et al., 2018;Kaladharan et al., 2020). ...
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Microplastic (MPs) contamination has emerged as a serious worldwide issue. Human activity, commercial enterprises, and fishing are concentrated around the seashore, causing high levels of MPs contamination in coastal and marine organisms. When it comes to their vulnerability to MPs ingestion, sharks are least studied organism. The objective of this study is to investigate MPs accumulation in sharks collected from the Southeast Indian coastal zone (Bay of Bengal). We present evidence of MPs ingestion in demersal sharks caught by the trawlers during trawling operations in marine waters beyond a depth of 80 m in the Southeast India coast. Shark samples were also checked for any gender or size differences in contaminant loading. Gill and gut (digestive tract) were examined in 40 sharks and 82.5% of samples contained at least one MP particle. The average number of MP particles was found to be 4.67 items per individual shark; the gastrointestinal tract showed more MPs than the gills. The majority of the MPs were blue and pale white followed by black and transparent particles with diameters ranging from 0.5 to 2 mm. The fibre fragments were prevalent in the intestines of the shark. Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy revealed that the bulk of polymers were polypropylene (PP), polyacrylamides (PA), and polyethylene (PE). MPs contamination poses an unknown level of harm to shark species. The present study revealed the first scientific data of MPs and associated fibre ingestion in shark species in their habitat in the Bay of Bengal.
Microplastics have recently been identified as one of the major contributors to environmental pollution. To design and control the biodegradability of polymer materials, it is crucial to obtain a better understanding of the aggregation states and thermal molecular motion of polymer chains in aqueous environments. Here, we focus on melt-spun microfibers of a promising biodegradable plastic, polyamide 4 (PA4), with a relatively greater number density of hydrolyzable amide groups, which is regarded as an alternative to polyamide 6. Aggregation states and thermal molecular motion of PA4 microfibers without/with a post-heating drawing treatment under dry and wet conditions were examined by attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and wide-angle X-ray diffraction analysis in conjunction with dynamic mechanical analysis. Sorbed water molecules in the microfibers induced the crystal transition from a meta-stable γ-form to a thermodynamically stable α-form via activation of the molecular motion of PA4 chains. Also, the post-drawing treatment caused a partial structural change of PA4 chains, from an amorphous phase to a crystalline phase. These findings should be useful for designing PA4-based structural materials applicable for use in marine environments.
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Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy studies confirmed the various Plastic Particles in commercially purchased table salts from South Indian market. The table salts are manufactured in Gujarat and Tuticorin, India. The table salts cost commercial brands which were easily found at the supermarkets in both the areas were analyzed. To test the hypothesis, four brands of table salts from supermarkets throughout Chidambaram town were collected (Samples – A and B in Gujarat and Samples – C and D in Tuticorin). The most common plastics present in the table salts were Nylon (NY), Polypropylene (PP), Low density polyethylene terephthalate (LDPET), High density polyethylene terephthalate (HDPET), Teflon (TF) and Polystyrene (PS). The FTIR results indicated that four brands of table salts were contaminated by plastic particles.
Marine trash can be found all around the oceans. Debris enters oceans through a variety of sources, including but not limited to sources onshore, vessels, and other marine infrastructure. Plastics are often the most significant component of marine debris, contributing up to 100% of floating trash. Microplastics (MPs) or nanoplastics (NPs), which are fragmented or otherwise minute plastic materials, have remained a source of environmental concern. This chapter traces the different avenues of NPs and MPs in an aquatic setting along with their origin. The toxic impacts of NPs and MPs on the marine ecosystem have been discussed in detail. This chapter also highlights the toxicity comparison of MPs/NPs and the brief analytical techniques for their mitigation. The available data suggests that the prolonged presence of NPs and MPs in the aquatic systems could have long-term repercussions. The more empirical and doctrinal study is pertinent for a better understanding of systemic toxicity caused by MPs/NPs, as well as the underlying mechanism.
Marine mammals can serve as an indicator of ecosystem health, and are likely exposed to significant amounts of microplastics (MPs). In this study we estimated the MP uptake of two odontocetes, the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), in the Mediterranean Sea and the Northeast Atlantic. These two species are expected to primarily ingest MPs through trophic transfer. To this end, data was collected on their diet, which was subsequently linked to MP occurrence and abundance in prey families. We estimated that D. delphis ingests 76 MPs/day in the Northeast Atlantic and 164 MPs/day in the Mediterranean, and T. truncatus ingests 36 MPs/day in the Northeast Atlantic and 179 MPs/day in the Mediterranean. This study provides important new predictions on MP exposure in two odontocetes, and opens up new research opportunities on the effect of this exposure on the health of organisms.
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We collected samples at weekly intervals from several stations in coastal waters of the Gulf of Maine during the spring of 1998 and 1999 for zooplankton and phytoplankton abundance, biomass, species composition, and toxin content. In addition, grazing rates of zooplankton were determined using natural water from selected stations. During 1998, there was a moderate bloom of the paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) producing dinoflagellates Alexandrium spp. (3000 cells/L), while in 1999 concentrations were very low throughout the Study. In 1998, potential zooplankton grazing-impacts oil Alexandrium spp. increased from 0 to 0.8 day(-1) in concert with the vernal increase in zooplankton biomass and appeared to contribute to the bloom's demise. During the 1998 bloom, PSP toxin levels in zooplankton tissues appeared to be sufficient to pose risks to higher trophic levels, such as fishes and marine mammals. Our findings suggest that zooplankton grazing can be an important source of mortality for harmful algal bloom species such as Alexandrium Spp. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Due to the widespread use and durability of synthetic polymers, plastic debris occurs in the environment worldwide. In the present work, information on sources and fate of microplastic particles in the aquatic and terrestrial environment, and on their uptake and effects, mainly in aquatic organisms, is reviewed. Microplastics in the environment originate from a variety of sources. Quantitative information on the relevance of these sources is generally lacking, but first estimates indicate that abrasion and fragmentation of larger plastic items and materials containing synthetic polymers are likely to be most relevant. Microplastics are ingested and, mostly, excreted rapidly by numerous aquatic organisms. So far, there is no clear evidence of bioaccumulation or biomagnification. In laboratory studies, the ingestion of large amounts of microplastics mainly led to a lower food uptake and, consequently, reduced energy reserves and effects on other physiological functions. Based on the evaluated data, the lowest microplastic concentrations affecting marine organisms exposed via water are much higher than levels measured in marine water. In lugworms exposed via sediment, effects were observed at microplastic levels that were higher than those in subtidal sediments but in the same range as maximum levels in beach sediments. Hydrophobic contaminants are enriched on microplastics, but the available experimental results and modelling approaches indicate that the transfer of sorbed pollutants by microplastics is not likely to contribute significantly to bioaccumulation of these pollutants. Prior to being able to comprehensively assess possible environmental risks caused by microplastics a number of knowledge gaps need to be filled. However, in view of the persistence of microplastics in the environment, the high concentrations measured at some environmental sites and the prospective of strongly increasing concentrations, the release of plastics into the environment should be reduced in a broad and global effort regardless of a proof of an environmental risk. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12302-015-0069-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
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Municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are frequently suspected as significant point sources or conduits of microplastics to the environment. To directly investigate these suspicions, effluent discharges from seven tertiary plants and one secondary plant in Southern California were studied. The study also looked at influent loads, particle size/type, conveyance, and removal at these wastewater treatment facilities. Over 0.189 million liters of effluent at each of the seven tertiary plants were filtered using an assembled stack of sieves with mesh sizes between 400 and 45 μm. Additionally, the surface of 28.4 million liters of final effluent at three tertiary plants was skimmed using a 125 μm filtering assembly. The results suggest that tertiary effluent is not a significant source of microplastics and that these plastic pollutants are effectively removed during the skimming and settling treatment processes. However, at a downstream secondary plant, an average of one micro-particle in every 1.14 thousand liters of final effluent was counted. The majority of microplastics identified in this study had a profile (color, shape, and size) similar to the blue polyethylene particles present in toothpaste formulations. Existing treatment processes were determined to be very effective for removal of microplastic contaminants entering typical municipal WWTPs.
This review article summarises the sources, occurrence, fate and effects of plastic waste in the marine environment. Due to its resistance to degradation, most plastic debris will persist in the environment for centuries and may be transported far from its source, including great distances out to sea. Land- and ocean-based sources are the major sources of plastic entering the environment, with domestic, industrial and fishing activities being the most important contributors. Ocean gyres are particular hotspots of plastic waste accumulation. Both macroplastics and microplastics pose a risk to organisms in the natural environment, for example, through ingestion or entanglement in the plastic. Many studies have investigated the potential uptake of hydrophobic contaminants, which can then bioaccumulate in the food chain, from plastic waste by organisms. To address the issue of plastic pollution in the marine environment, governments should first play an active role in addressing the issue of plastic waste by introducing legislation to control the sources of plastic debris and the use of plastic additives. In addition, plastics industries should take responsibility for the end-of-life of their products by introducing plastic recycling or upgrading programmes.
There has been a considerable increase on research of the ecological consequences of microplastics released into the environment, but only a handful of works have focused on the nano-sized particles of polymer-based materials. Though their presence has been difficult to adequately ascertain, due to the inherent technical difficulties for isolating and quantifying them, there is an overall consensus that these are not only present in the environment – either directly released or as the result of weathering of larger fragments – but that they also pose a significant threat to the environment and human health, as well. The reduced size of these particulates (< 1 μm) makes them susceptible of ingestion by organisms that are at the base of the food-chain. Moreover, the characteristic high surface area-to-volume ratio of nanoparticles may add to their potential hazardous effects, as other contaminants, such as persistent organic pollutants, could be adsorbed and undergo bioaccumulation and bioamplification phenomena.
Chelonia mydas is distributed in several regions of the world and they are common in coastal regions and around islands. Between August 2008 and July 2009, 20 specimens of C. mydas were found dead on the beaches of Ubatuba, São Paulo, Brazil. The stomachs were removed and anthropogenic wastes were separated according their malleability and color. Of those animals, nine had ingested marine debris. Soft plastic was the most frequent among the samples and the majority of fragments was white or colorless and was between zero and five cm. Many studies have shown a high incidence of eating waste for some species of sea turtles. The record of ingestion of mostly transparent and white anthropogenic wastes in this study strengthens the hypothesis that these animals mistake them for jellyfish. Although the intake of anthropogenic waste causes impact on the lives of sea turtles, such studies are still scarce in Brazil.