Plastic as a carrier of POPs to aquatic organisms: A model analysis.

Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript
DOI: 10.1021/es401169n
Publication Date (Web): June 11, 2013
Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society

Abstract

It has been hypothesised that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in microplastic may pose a risk to aquatic organisms. Here, we develop and analyse a conceptual model that simulates the effects of plastic on bioaccumulation of POPs. The model accounts for dilution of exposure concentration by sorption of POPs to plastic (POP ‘dilution’), increased bioaccumulation by ingestion of plastic containing POPs (‘carrier’), and decreased bioaccumulation by ingestion of clean plastic (‘cleaning’). The model is parameterised for the lugworm Arenicola marina and evaluated against recently published bioaccumulation data for this species from laboratory bioassays with polystyrene microplastic. Further scenarios include polyethylene microplastic, nano-sized plastic and open marine systems. Model analysis shows that plastic with low affinity for POPs, like polystyrene will have a marginal decreasing effect on bioaccumulation, governed by dilution. For stronger sorbents like polyethylene, the dilution, carrier and cleaning mechanism are more substantial. In closed laboratory bioassay systems, dilution and cleaning dominate, leading to decreased bioaccumulation. Also in open marine systems a decrease is predicted due to a cleaning mechanism that counteracts biomagnification. However, the differences are considered too small to be relevant from a risk assessment perspective.

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