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.

We all need to wear clothes, and fashion can be a powerful and fun way to express oneself. However, more than 60% of the clothes we wear today are made of plastic. Common fibers like nylon, spandex, and polyester are derived from fossil fuels and, like all plastics, don’t break down in the environment. Low-quality fast fashion items are dumped in countries that can’t properly manage the waste, while tiny microfibers constantly shed from our clothing and make their way into our air, oceans, food, and bodies. Fortunately, there are small lifestyle changes we can make to reduce the harm caused by textiles…and it starts with doing less. Sign the pledge to do less!

Today, Canada produces nearly 2.4 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year. And that number keeps growing dramatically. Typically, this plastic is used just once, sometimes for minutes. But it lasts for centuries in the environment, where it harms oceans, ecosystems and life itself.

Oceana Canada’s roadmap provides an evidence-based guide to eliminating one-third of our country’s plastic packaging. By implementing the recommended interventions, Canada can prevent the generation of nearly nine million tonnes of single-use plastic by 2040.

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.

The toxic chemicals 6PPD and 6PPD-quinone have been detected in the urine of adults, children, and pregnant women in three regions of South China. 6PPD and 6PPD-quinone are commonly used additives in synthetic rubber vehicle tires, and have been found to harm aquatic life. The researchers conclude more research must be done to understand the human health risks of exposure to this chemical.

Abstract: N-(1,3-Dimethylbutyl)-N′-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine (6PPD) and its quinone derivative, 6PPD-quinone (6PPD-Q), have been found to be prevalent in the environment, but there are currently no data on their presence in humans. Herein, we conducted the first human biomonitoring study of 6PPD and 6PPD-Q by measuring 150 urine samples collected from three different populations (general adults, children, and pregnant women) in South China. Both 6PPD and 6PPD-Q were detected in the urine samples, with detection frequencies between 60% and 100%. Urinary 6PPD-Q concentrations were significantly higher than those of 6PPD and correlated well with those of 6PPD (p < 0.01), indicating coexposure to 6PPD and 6PPD-Q in humans. In vitro metabolic experiments demonstrated rapid depletion of 6PPD by human liver microsomes, which should be responsible for the lower concentrations of 6PPD in human urine. Additionally, pregnant women exhibited apparently higher concentrations of 6PPD and 6PPD-Q (median 0.068 and 2.91 ng/mL, respectively) than did adults (0.018 and 0.40 ng/mL) and children (0.015 and 0.076 ng/mL). The high daily urinary excretion of 6PPD-Q in pregnant women was estimated to be 273 (ng/kg bw)/day. Considering that 6PPD-Q was a lethal toxicant to multiple aquatic species, the potential human health risks posed by its long-term exposure require urgent attention.