Leachates from pyroplastics alter the behaviour of a key ecosystem engineer

Pyroplastic, an amorphous matrix derived from the burning of manufactured plastics, is a newly described type of plastic pollution. Researchers surveyed 12 locations along northern French shores where mussel reefs are common. They recorded finding pyroplastic items at six sites (with an average weight of 3.34g) that were mostly mainly made of polyethylene. They tested the effects of exposure to raw and beached pyroplastic leachates on adaptive behavioral traits of the mussel Mytilus edulis, a key ecosystem engineer in the region. Pyroplastic leachates significantly affected the ability of mussels to move and aggregate. Polyethylene plastic had greater effects than polypropylene. These results offer the first evidence that pyroplastics may have more severe impacts on living organisms than those triggered by non-burnt plastics.

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Experts review the known endocrine-disrupting impacts of micro- and nanoplastics on mammals. Studies show numerous harmful health impacts from plastic particle exposure.

Abstract: Over the years, the vast expansion of plastic manufacturing has dramatically increased the environmental impact of microplastics [MPs] and nanoplastics [NPs], making them a threat to marine and terrestrial biota because they contain endocrine disrupting chemicals [EDCs] and other harmful compounds. MPs and NPs have deleteriouse impacts on mammalian endocrine components such as hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, testes, and ovaries. MPs and NPs absorb and act as a transport medium for harmful chemicals such as bisphenols, phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ether, polychlorinated biphenyl ether, organotin, perfluorinated compounds, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, organic contaminants, and heavy metals, which are commonly used as additives in plastic production. As the EDCs are not covalently bonded to plastics, they can easily leach into milk, water, and other liquids affecting the endocrine system of mammals upon exposure. The toxicity induced by MPs and NPs is size-dependent, as smaller particles have better absorption capacity and larger surface area, releasing more EDC and toxic chemicals. Various EDCs contained or carried by MPs and NPs share structural similarities with specific hormone receptors; hence they interfere with normal hormone receptors, altering the hormonal action of the endocrine glands. This review demonstrates size-dependent MPs’ bioaccumulation, distribution, and translocation with potential hazards to the endocrine gland. We reviewed that MPs and NPs disrupt hypothalamic-pituitary axes, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid/adrenal/testicular/ovarian axis leading to oxidative stress, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, cytotoxicity, developmental abnormalities, decreased sperm quality, and immunotoxicity. The direct consequences of MPs and NPs on the thyroid, testis, and ovaries are documented. Still, studies need to be carried out to identify the direct effects of MPs and NPs on the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands.

Researchers have found that a type of microscopic zooplankton found in both fresh and ocean environments chews up plastics, breaking them more rapidly into dangerous micro- and nanoplastic particles.

Abstract: The role of aquatic organisms in the biological fragmentation of microplastics and their contribution to global nanoplastic pollution are poorly understood. Here we present a biological fragmentation pathway that generates nanoplastics during the ingestion of microplastics by rotifers, a commonly found and globally distributed surface water zooplankton relevant for nutrient recycling. Both marine and freshwater rotifers could rapidly grind polystyrene, polyethylene and photo-aged microplastics, thus releasing smaller particulates during ingestion. Nanoindentation studies of the trophi of the rotifer chitinous mastax revealed a Young’s modulus of 1.46 GPa, which was higher than the 0.79 GPa for polystyrene microparticles, suggesting a fragmentation mechanism through grinding the edges of microplastics. Marine and freshwater rotifers generated over 3.48 × 105 and 3.66 × 105 submicrometre particles per rotifer in a day, respectively, from photo-aged microplastics. Our data suggest the ubiquitous occurrence of microplastic fragmentation by different rotifer species in natural aquatic environments of both primary and secondary microplastics of various polymer compositions and provide previously unidentified insights into the fate of microplastics and the source of nanoplastics in global surface waters.

Scientists discover that sea turtle eggs are disproportionately hatching female-sexed as temperatures of beaches increase along with exposure to pollution, including plastic.

Abstract: Sea turtle nesting beaches are experiencing increased sand temperatures as climate change progresses. In one major green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting beach in the northern Great Barrier Reef, over 99 percent of hatchlings are female. The effects of contaminants on sea turtle hatchling sex determination are not often explored. Liver samples were collected from green turtle hatchlings that were sacrificed for histological sex determination in a parallel study on the effects of sand cooling on sex ratios, and analysed for trace elements via acid digestion and organic contaminants via in vitro cytotoxicity bioassays. Chromium, antimony, barium, and cadmium have previously been demonstrated to be estrogenic, and concentrations of these elements were used to calculate three estrogenic indexes for each clutch: predicted relative estrogenic potency (PEEQA), the sum of percent trace elements above the median of all samples (TEOM), and the sum of percent estrogenic elements above the median of all samples (EstroEOM). Excluding an outlier clutch, cadmium, antimony, and EstroEOM had significant positive relationships with sex ratio deviation. Mean clutch cobalt, lead, antimony and barium, also had a significant positive relationship with clutch sex ratio. There was no relationship between in vitro cytotoxicity of liver extracts and sex ratio, however, 9% of hatchlings had organic contaminants high enough to suggest potential cellular damage. Contaminant effects on sex determination are likely to be caused by a mixture of contaminant interactions as well as temperature. Many trace elements detected in this study have also been linked to negative health effects on hatchlings in previous studies. Considering the risks of feminization due to climate change and potential contaminant effects on hatchling health and sex determination, future studies exploring contaminant effects on sea turtle hatchling sex determination are recommended.

Nanoplastics in brain linked to Parkinson’s disease, dementia proteins

Scientists find that the presence of extremely small plastic particles, called nanoplastics, in mouse brains appears to be linked to formation of proteins associated with development of Parkinson’s disease and related dementias. Mice, humans, and other animals collect plastic particles in their bodies when they eat, drink, and breathe. Some plastic particles may even be absorbed by the skin.

Abstract: Recent studies have identified increasing levels of nanoplastic pollution in the environment. Here, we find that anionic nanoplastic contaminants potently precipitate the formation and propagation of α-synuclein protein fibrils through a high-affinity interaction with the amphipathic and non-amyloid component (NAC) domains in α-synuclein. Nanoplastics can internalize in neurons through clathrin-dependent endocytosis, causing a mild lysosomal impairment that slows the degradation of aggregated α-synuclein. In mice, nanoplastics combine with α-synuclein fibrils to exacerbate the spread of α-synuclein pathology across interconnected vulnerable brain regions, including the strong induction of α-synuclein inclusions in dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. These results highlight a potential link for further exploration between nanoplastic pollution and α-synuclein aggregation associated with Parkinson’s disease and related dementias.