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Plastic pollution - chemical risks for marine ecosystems

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Anna Kärrman

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Plastic fragments in the ocean, commonly called micro plastics, are an emerging organic pollutant that is ingested by a large number of marine species and affects the wildlife in largely unknown ways. The limited knowledge of the risks associated with marine plastics is the starting point for this project that aims at assessing the effects on the marine ecosystems. Plastic is extremely persistent and will affect the environment in many ways during its life time. The toxic effect will be assessed by scrutinizing marine plastic litter with a combination of bioanalytical effect analysis and chemical analysis. Total amount of toxicants on plastics and the bioavailable fraction that can have endocrine disruption potential, cause mutagenicity or induce dioxin-like activity will be measured and identified by mass spectrometric analysis. This effect oriented approach will:

  • determine the potential biological impact of toxicants on plastic litter,
  • identify chemicals responsible for the effects, and
  • identify the type and size of the most toxic plastic litter.

The results will be used to perform risk assessments for marine wildlife exposed to plastic litter and be communicated with stakeholders working with The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

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