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Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Jan 16;52(2):446-456. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b04682. Epub 2017 Dec 21.

Pollutants in Plastics within the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

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The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, Martinus Nijhofflaan 2, 2624 ES Delft, The Netherlands.
Department of Ecosystem Analysis, Institute for Environmental Research, ABBt - Aachen Biology and Biotechnology, RWTH Aachen University , 1 Worringerweg, 52074 Aachen, Germany.
State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University , 3663 Zhongshan N. Road, 200062 Shanghai, P.R. China.
School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, Faculty of Technology, University of Portsmouth , Portland Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth, PO1 3AH, United Kingdom.
Wageningen Marine Research, Wageningen University & Research , P.O. Box 68, 1970 AB IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
Instituto de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande , Rio Grande, Brazil.
State Key Laboratory of Yangtze River Water Environment, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tongji University , 1239 Siping Road, 200092 Shanghai, P.R. China.
Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University & Research , P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Here we report concentrations of pollutants in floating plastics from the North Pacific accumulation zone (NPAC). We compared chemical concentrations in plastics of different types and sizes, assessed ocean plastic potential risks using sediment quality criteria, and discussed the implications of our findings for bioaccumulation. Our results suggest that at least a fraction of the NPAC plastics is not in equilibrium with the surrounding seawater. For instance, "hard plastic" samples had significantly higher PBDE concentrations than "nets and ropes" samples, and 29% of them had PBDE composition similar to a widely used flame-retardant mixture. Our findings indicate that NPAC plastics may pose a chemical risk to organisms as 84% of the samples had at least one chemical exceeding sediment threshold effect levels. Furthermore, our surface trawls collected more plastic than biomass (180 times on average), indicating that some NPAC organisms feeding upon floating particles may have plastic as a major component of their diets. If gradients for pollutant transfer from NPAC plastic to predators exist (as indicated by our fugacity ratio calculations), plastics may play a role in transferring chemicals to certain marine organisms.

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