“The EU will use its powerful chemical laws to stop mostmicroplastics and microbeads being added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products, according to a draft law due to be tabled today.” …
… “The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020. It will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, the agency says. NGOs welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but strongly warn that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers. As it stands, the draft law will only restrict one sector when it comes into force, namely cleansing products made by firms that have already pledged to stop using microplastic. Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect. The proposal will go to public consultation this summer followed by economic, social and risk assessments, then a vote by government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.” …
Brain damage and behavioural disorders in fish induced by plastic nanoparticles delivered through the food chain
2017 Study Abstract
The tremendous increases in production of plastic materials has led to an accumulation of plastic pollution worldwide. Many studies have addressed the physical effects of large-sized plastics on organisms, whereas few have focused on plastic nanoparticles, despite their distinct chemical, physical and mechanical properties. Hence our understanding of their effects on ecosystem function, behaviour and metabolism of organisms remains elusive. Here we demonstrate that plastic nanoparticles reduce survival of aquatic zooplankton and penetrate the blood-to-brain barrier in fish and cause behavioural disorders. Hence, for the first time, we uncover direct interactions between plastic nanoparticles and brain tissue, which is the likely mechanism behind the observed behavioural disorders in the top consumer. In a broader perspective, our findings demonstrate that plastic nanoparticles are transferred up through a food chain, enter the brain of the top consumer and affect its behaviour, thereby severely disrupting the function of natural ecosystems.
The amount of plastics in the world’s water bodies is rapidly increasing and this material degrades in size over time and will eventually break down into plastic nanoparticles. Due to their small size, they easily enter the basis of natural food chains, although it is unclear how these particles affect aquatic ecosystems. We show here that 52 nm positively charged amino modified polystyrene nanoparticles are toxic to Daphnia and that fish feeding on Daphnia containing plastic nanoparticles change their behaviour in terms of activity, feeding time and the distance they need to swim to consume their provided food. Furthermore, the behavioural changes depend on the size of the particles. However, fish receiving 180 nm particles were differently affected as they were the fastest feeders and had the highest activity. In nature, the particles likely become aggregated with biological or inorganic material, but we here show that the nano-size effect remains after passing through the Daphnia digestive system. For example, Ward et al. exposed the blue mussel Mytilus edulis and the oyster Crassostrea virginica to polystyrene nanoparticles, aggregated nanoparticles and micro-particles and found a higher ingestion rate for the aggregated nanoparticles. Wegner et al. exposed the mussel Mytilus edulis to polystyrene nanoparticles both as nano-sized particles and as aggregated polystyrene nanoparticles. They found a reduced filtering rate and an increased production of pseudofeces. In this context, our results point to an acute need for a deeper understanding of the size-dependent toxicity effects of nanoparticles when released into nature. How these particles affect organisms higher up in the food web, such as fish, as well as how they affect birds and mammals are unclear. In 2015, the estimated amount of plastics being released into the ocean was between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons, with a steady increase the coming years. Eventually this plastic will degrade in size and reach the nanometer size range.
Here we demonstrate how plastic nanoparticles are transported up the food chain and are detected in brain tissue of the fish top consumer whereas no polystyrene were detected in the control group. Moreover, we also here report macroscopic changes in the brain structure and water content in fish that have received plastic nanoparticles. By using hyperspectral microscopy, we were able to detect polystyrene particles in fish brain tissue and thereby we have, for the first time, demonstrated that the plastics nanoparticles can be transported across the blood-brain barrier in fish. Moreover, this result suggests a mechanistic link between the observed behavioural changes and the presence of plastic nanoparticles in the brain tissue. In the present study, we observed changes in the brain which may have been caused by specific interactions between the plastics and the brain tissue, although we cannot rule out that other organs may also be affected. Our study lasted for two months, but during the first half of the experiment we observed no changes in behaviour of the nanoparticle fed fish, suggesting that fish are affected by the particles that are accumulated in the fish. In nature, the Daphnia and fish are likely exposed to low concentrations of plastic nanoparticles during their whole life-time, which allows accumulation processes to act for a much longer time period than in our study, since fish, such as crucian carp, may live for more than 10 years. However, our results also imply that effects on biota from plastic nanoplastics are dependent on both concentration and size of the particles, which opens up for manufacturers to adjust production of nanoparticles to sizes that are less hazardous to organism metabolism and thereby ecosystem function.
The main conclusion from our study is that plastic nanoparticles are transferred through three tropic levels, suggesting that they are likely to be transferred even further up the food web to ultimately reach humans, the top-level consumer. Hence, in a broader perspective, our results may have implications for human wellbeing, although such consequences of the accelerating disposal rate of plastics is yet not well recognized or understood.
Brain damage and behavioural disorders in fish induced by plastic nanoparticles delivered through the food chain, Nature Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10813-0, 13 September 2017.
Nanoparticles featured image : Food chain from algae-zooplankton-fish, nanoparticles (53 nm mass (dark blue), 53 nm surface area (light blue) and 180 nm (red)) credit nature.
This report provides an update and further assessment of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment, carried out by Working Group 40 (WG40) of GESAMP (The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Protection). It follows publication of the first assessment report in this series in April 2015 (GESAMP 2015). The issue of marine plastic litter was raised during the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in June 2014. Delegates from 160 countries adopted Resolution 1/6 on ‘Marine plastic debris and microplastics’ (Annex I). The resolution welcomed the work being undertaken by GESAMP on microplastics and requested the Executive Director of UNEP to carry out a study on marine plastics and microplastics. This was to be based on a combination of existing and new studies, including WG40. This provided the motivation for GESAMP to revise the original terms of reference to reflect both the request from UNEP to contribute to the UNEA study, and the key recommendations from the WG40 2015 report.
Each main section begins with key messages followed by a short summary of related findings from the first report. Each section ends with conclusions, knowledge gaps and research priorities. Greater effort has been made to describe the nature, distribution and magnitude of sources of macro- and microplastics. These are described by sea-based and land-based sectors, together with the main entry points to the ocean. Spatial (regional) and temporal differences in both sources and entry points are examined. One previously unrecognized source of secondary microplastics highlighted is debris from vehicle tyres.
The distribution of microplastics in the five main ocean compartments (sea surface, water column, shoreline, seabed and biota) are described, together with the transport mechanisms that regulate fluxes between compartments. Regional ‘hot-spots’ of sources, distribution and accumulation zones are reported, in response to the UNEA request.
The effects of microplastics on marine biota have been explored in greater detail.
Greater attention has been given to the interaction of microplastics with biota. A comprehensive literature review has been assembled with tables summarising the occurrence of microplastics in a wide variety of marine organisms and seabirds. There does appear to be an association between uptake of microplastics and changes in the physiological or biochemical response in some species, observed in laboratory experiments. It is not clear whether this will be significant at a population level with current observed microplastic numbers. The current understanding of the interaction of plasticassociated chemicals with biota is reviewed, using laboratory-based experiments, theoretical studies and field-based observations. It appears very likely that this interaction will be dependent on:
the relative degree of contamination of the plastic, the biota concerned and the marine environment (sediment, water, foodstuff) in that region;
the size, shape and type of plastics;
and several time-related variables (e.g. environmental transport, gut desorption rates).
This remains a contentious area of research. The occurrence of nano-sized plastics in the marine environment has yet to be established and we are dependent on drawing inferences from other fields of science and medicine when considering possible effects. Microplastics can act as vectors for both indigenous and non-indigenous species. Examples include pathogenic Vibrio bacteria, eggs of marine insects and the resting stages of several jellyfish species.
A new section considers the possible effect of microplastics on commercial fish and shellfish. Microplastics have been found in a variety of commercial fish and shellfish, including samples purchased from retail outlets. Generally the numbers of particles per organism are very small, even for filter-feeding bivalves in coastal areas bordered by high coastal populations. At these levels it is not considered likely that microplastics will influence the breeding/development success of fish stocks (food security) nor represent an objective risk to human health (food safety). However, data are rather scarce and this is an area that justifies further attention.
The economic aspects of microplastic contamination are considered in another new section. This relies heavily on studies looking at the effects of macrodebris on various sectors (e.g. fisheries, shipping, tourism, waste management), given the paucity of knowledge of direct economic effects of microplastics. Acting on macroplastics may be easier to justify, as the social, ecological and economic effects are easier to demonstrate. This in turn will reduce the quantities of secondary microplastics being generated in the ocean. One significant cost that may be incurred would be the provision of wastewater treatment capable of filtering out microplastics. Such systems are relatively common in some rich countries but absent in many developing nations. Clearly, there are many other reasons to introduce improved wastewater treatment (nutrient reduction, disease prevention), with reduction in microplastics being an additional benefit.
Social aspects are focused around factors influencing long-term behaviour change, including risk perceptions, perceived responsibility and the influence of demographics. This is key to implementing effective, acceptable measures.
A separate section summarizes good practice guidance on sampling and analysis at sea, in sediments and in biological samples. There are no global ‘standards’ but if these guidelines are followed then it will be easier to generate quality-assured data, in a cost-effective manner, and for datasets to be compared and combined with more confidence.
The final main section presents an initial risk assessment framework. Having described some basic principles about risk, likelihood and consequences the section provides a conceptual framework and two case examples (one real, one hypothetical) of how the framework can be utilized.
The report concludes with key conclusions and recommendations for further research.
The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) is a scientific body advising the United Nations (UN) and whose secretariat is the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Society has used the ocean as a convenient place to dispose of unwanted materials and waste products for many centuries, either directly or indirectly via rivers. The volume of material increased with a growing population and an increasingly industrialized society. The demand for manufactured goods and packaging, to contain or protect food and goods, increased throughout the twentieth century. Large-scale production of plastics began in the 1950s and plastics have become widespread, used in a bewildering variety of applications. The many favourable properties of plastics, including durability and low cost, make plastics the obvious choice in many situations. Unfortunately, society has been slow to anticipate the need for dealing adequately with end-of-life plastics, to prevent plastics entering the marine environment. As a result there has been a substantial volume of debris added to the ocean over the past 60 years, covering a very wide range of sizes (metres to nanometres in diameter). This is a phenomenon that has occurred wherever humans live or travel. As a result there are multiple routes of entry of plastics into the ocean, and ocean currents have transported plastics to the most remote regions. It is truly a global problem.
The GESAMP assessment focuses on a category of plastic debris termed ‘microplastics’. These small pieces of plastic may enter the ocean as such, or may result from the fragmentation of larger items through the influence of UV radiation.
Section 1 provides an introduction to the problem of microplastics in the marine environment, and the rationale for the assessment. The principal purpose of the assessment is to provide an improved evidence base, to support policy and management decisions on measures that might be adopted to reduce the input of microplastics to the oceans.
The GESAMP assessment can be considered as contributing to a more formal Assessment Framework, such as the Driver-Pressure-State-ImpactResponse (DPSIR) Assessment Framework, which is introduced in Section 2.
The nature of man-made polymers, different types and properties of common plastics and their behaviour in the marine environment are introduced in Section 3. There is no internationally agreed definition of the size below which a small piece of plastic should be called a microplastic. Many researchers have used a definition of <5 mm, but this encompasses a very wide range of sizes, down to nano-scales. Some microplastics are purposefully made to carry out certain functions, such as abrasives in personal care products (e.g. toothpaste and skin cleaners) or for industrial purposes such as shot-blasting surfaces. These are often termed ‘primary’ microplastics. There is an additional category of primary particle known as a ‘pellet’. These are usually spherical or cylindrical, approximately 5 mm in diameter, and represent the common form in which newly produced plastic is transported between plastic producers and industries which convert the simple pellet into a myriad of different types of product.
The potential physical and chemical impacts of microplastics, and associated contaminants, are discussed in detail in Section 4. The physical impacts of larger litter items, such as plastic bags and fishing nets, have been demonstrated, but it is much more difficult to attribute physical impacts of microplastics from field observations. For this reason researchers have used laboratory-based experimental facilities to investigate particle uptake, retention and effects. Chemical effects are even more difficult to quantify. This is partly because seawater, sediment particles and biota are already contaminated by many of the chemical substances also associated with plastics. Organic contaminants that accumulate in fat (lipids) in marine organisms are absorbed by plastics to a similar extent. Thus the presence of a contaminant in plastic fragments in the gut of an animal and the measurement of the same contaminant in tissue samples does not imply a causal relationship. The contaminant may be there due to the normal diet. In a very small number of cases, contaminants present in high concentrations in plastic fragments with a distinctive chemical ‘signature’ (a type of flame retardant) can be separated from related contaminants present in prey items and have been shown to transfer across the gut. What is still unknown is the extent to which this might have an ecotoxicological impact on the individual.
It is recognized that people’s attitudes and behaviour contribute significantly to many routes of entry of plastics into the ocean. Any solutions to reducing these sources must take account of this social dimension, as attempts to impose regulation without public understanding and approval are unlikely to be effective. Section 5 provides an opportunity to explore issues around public perceptions towards the ocean, marine litter, microplastics and the extent to which society should be concerned. Research specifically on litter is rather limited, but useful analogies can be made with other environmental issues of concern, such as radioactivity or climate change.
Section 6 summarizes some of the main observations and conclusions, divided into three sections: i) sources, distribution and fate; ii) effects; and, iii) social aspects. Statements are given a mark of high, medium or low confidence. A common theme is the high degree of confidence in what we do not know. The assessment report concludes (Section 7) with a set of six Challenges and related Recommendations. Suggestions for how to carry out the recommendations are provided, together with a briefing on the likely consequences of not taking action. These are divided into three Action-orientated recommendations and three recommendations designed to improve a future assessment:
Identify the main sources and categories of plastics and microplastics entering the ocean.
Utilize end-of-plastic as a valuable resource rather than a waste product.
Promote greater awareness of the impact of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment.
Recommendations for improving a future assessment: • Include particles in the nano-size range.
Evaluate the potential significance of plastics and microplastics as a vector for organisms.
Address the chemical risk posed by ingested microplastics in greater detail.
Microplastics found in supermarket fish, shellfish
This post content was written by Greta Stieger and originally published on Food Packaging Forum – non-profit foundation making scientific facts and expert opinions about food packaging and health accessible and understandable to all
In “Microplastics found in supermarket fish, shellfish”published on January 28, 2017 by CBC News, editor Brandie Weikle informs about a new report entitled “Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: Part 2 of a global assessment.”
The second report was published on January 25, 2017 by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), which is a scientific body advising the United Nations (UN) and whose secretariat is the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The new report is a follow-up to the first assessment report on the microplastics issue published by GESAMP in April 2015.
“Microplastics have been found in a variety of commercial fish and shellfish, including samples purchased from retail outlets,”
the new report states. At current contamination levels, it is considered unlikely that microplastics “represent an objective risk to human health (food safety).” However, more research is needed to determine the potential risk posed by microplastics for food safety and food security.
According to Chelsea Rochman, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto, Canada, and co-editor of the report,
“microplastics have infiltrated every level of the food chain in marine environments and likely fresh water, and so now we’re seeing it come back to us on our dinner plates.”
The main source of microplastics is likely
“larger plastic items . . . that enter the water and over time break down with the sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic, including plastic bags, styrofoam food containers, and plastic cutlery.”,
Peter Wells, senior research fellow with the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University, Canada, and not directly involved in the report, added that
“microplastics enter marine organisms, not just their guts but also their tissues. Therefore, gutting fish will not remove all microplastics they consumed. Of further concern are the organic contaminants that microplastics absorb, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, flame retardants, and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).”,
Estimated 1 455 tonnes of plastic floating in the Mediterranean
A rough total of 1 455 tonnes of floating plastic is present across the Mediterranean, estimates a new study. Researchers gathered floating plastics using trawl nets and found that microplastics with a surface area of around 1 square milimetre (mm²) were the most abundant size of plastic particles found.
In a large-scale study of the Mediterranean Sea, plastic was found in all samples.
579.3 g dw km−2 and 147,500 items km−2 were the average concentrations.
The most common particle size in the samples was 1 mm².
The proportion of plastic in all the marine debris sampled was 96.87%.
The general estimate obtained was a total value of 1455 tons dw of floating plastic for the entire Mediterranean region.
Floating plastic debris in the Central and Western Mediterranean Sea, Marine Environmental Research, Volume 120, Pages 136–144, September 2016.
In two sea voyages throughout the Mediterranean (2011 and 2013) that repeated the historical travels of Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria (1847–1915), 71 samples of floating plastic debris were obtained with a Manta trawl. Floating plastic was observed in all the sampled sites, with an average weight concentration of 579.3 g dw km−2 (maximum value of 9298.2 g dw km−2) and an average particle concentration of 147,500 items km−2 (the maximum concentration was 1,164,403 items km−2). The plastic size distribution showed microplastics (<5 mm) in all the samples. The most abundant particles had a surface area of approximately 1 mm2 (the mesh size was 333 μm). The general estimate obtained was a total value of 1455 tons dw of floating plastic in the entire Mediterranean region, with various potential spatial accumulation areas.
Floating plastic debris in the Central and Western Mediterranean Sea
Plastics are among the most commonly used materials and, as a result, plastic waste is found throughout the marine environment. It has been estimated that 4.8–12.7 million tonnes of plastic were released into oceans worldwide in 2010. Plastics can have a number of impacts on marine ecosystems, including entanglement of and ingestion by wildlife, and can accumulate through the food chain. Micro-plastics are particularly harmful to marine animals due to their small size and ability to adsorb other pollutants. Plastics can also have adverse impacts on human health and industry, affecting tourism, fishing and aquaculture.
Science for Environment Policy, European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, Issue 476, 11 November 2016.
This study examined the size, distribution and abundance of floating plastics within the north-western and central Mediterranean Sea, in accordance with established classifications under the European Union Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The Mediterranean Sea has a population of approximately 100 million people living within 10 km of the coastline, giving high potential for plastic accumulation.
Floating plastic debris in the Central and Western Mediterranean Sea, Marine Environmental Research, Volume 120, Pages 136–144, September 2016.
The researchers used a trawl with a mesh size of 333 µm net to collect plastics from the surface of the water across four Mediterranean regional seas (the Sea of Sardinia, the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea). Plastics were divided into three size categories: microplastics (less than 5 mm), mesoplastics (5–25 mm) and macroplastics (25–1 000 mm).
The plastics were dried and weighed, and for each of the 71 trawls, the researchers recorded the plastic weight concentration in grams of dryweight per square kilometre (g dw km−2) and plastic particle concentration as the number of plastic items per square kilometre (items km−2).
A total of 17 495 items were collected within the trawl samples, including 16 719 microplastics, 691 mesoplastics and 85 macroplastics. Plastics made up almost 97% of the manmade debris found and were in all 71 samples. Weight concentration ranged from 7.43 to 9292.24 g dw km–2 . Particle concentration ranged from 8 999 to 1 164 403 items km−2 . Microplastics with a surface area of around 1 mm2 were the most abundant particle size found.
The highest particle concentration by weight was found in the Gulf of Taranto in the Ionian Sea (9 298.2 g dw km−2) and the highest concentration by particles was found between the Greek Islands of Antipaxi and Lefkada (1 164 403 items km−2). Assuming that the range of concentrations of plastic in the sampled areas is similar across the entire region, the researchers give a rough estimate of 1 455 tonnes of floating plastic within the Mediterranean.
In contrast to other seas, the high variability of surface currents in the Mediterranean means that concentrations of plastic are less stable and less likely to remain in set locations. However, the researchers identified four potential areas of plastic accumulation due to currents and other factors, such as coastal populations, tourism and plastic washing into the sea from rivers. These areas are the Otranto Strait, the northern coast of Sicily, the Ionian Islands and the Menorca Channel.
The study is one of the first large-scale surveys of plastic waste in the Mediterranean. The researchers say that the issue of floating plastic waste is likely to get worse as increases in global plastic production, inadequate waste-management systems and human behaviour all contribute to the problem. Measures to increase social awareness and efforts to reduce the release of plastic waste into the oceans are, therefore, recommended.
The House Just Voted to Ban Those Tiny Pieces of Plastic in Your Toothpaste and Face Wash
Monday 7 DEcember 2015, the US House of Representatives voted to phase out microbeads, the little pieces of plastic that act as exfoliants in personal-care products ranging from face wash to toothpaste. The bill, which had been backed by a bipartisan committee, will now go to the Senate for approval.
The bill was introduced last year by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and would ban the use of synthetic microplastics in cosmetics by 2018.
Sources and more information
The House Just Voted to Ban Those Tiny Pieces of Plastic in Your Toothpaste, motherjones, Dec. 8, 2015.
Congress Votes To Ban Microbeads In Personal Care Products, hngn, Dec. 8, 2015.
US to ban soaps and other products containing microbeads, theguardian, 8 December 2015.
Congress to vote on bill to ban microbead hygiene products in US, theguardian, 18 November 2015.
25% of Fish Sold at Markets Contain Plastic or Man-Made Debris
2015 Study Abstract
The ubiquity of anthropogenic debris in hundreds of species of wildlife and the toxicity of chemicals associated with it has begun to raise concerns regarding the presence of anthropogenic debris in seafood. We assessed the presence of anthropogenic debris in fishes and shellfish on sale for human consumption. We sampled from markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and from California, USA. All fish and shellfish were identified to species where possible. Anthropogenic debris was extracted from the digestive tracts of fish and whole shellfish using a 10% KOH solution and quantified under a dissecting microscope. In Indonesia, anthropogenic debris was found in 28% of individual fish and in 55% of all species. Similarly, in the USA, anthropogenic debris was found in 25% of individual fish and in 67% of all species. Anthropogenic debris was also found in 33% of individual shellfish sampled. All of the anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in Indonesia was plastic, whereas anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in the USA was primarily fibers. Variations in debris types likely reflect different sources and waste management strategies between countries. We report some of the first findings of plastic debris in fishes directly sold for human consumption raising concerns regarding human health.
Sources and more information
Anthropogenic debris in seafood: Plastic debris and fibers from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption, Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 14340 (2015), doi:10.1038/srep14340, 24 September 2015.
25% of Fish Sold at Markets Contain Plastic or Man-Made Debris, ecowatch, September 30, 2015.
America’s Deadly Love Affair With Bottled Water Has to End, ecowatch, September 24, 2015.
Are Microplastics in Your Salmon Filet?, ecowatch, August 17, 2015