Plastic resin pellets as a transport medium for toxic chemicals in the marine environment

Environ Sci Technol. 2001 Jan 15;35(2):318-24. doi: 10.1021/es0010498.


Plastic resin pellets (small granules 0.1-0.5 centimeters in diameter) are widely distributed in the ocean all over the world. They are an industrial raw material for the plastic industry and are unintentionally released to the environment both during manufacturing and transport. They are sometimes ingested by seabirds and other marine organisms, and their adverse effects on organisms are a concern. In the present study, PCBs, DDE, and nonylphenols (NP) were detected in polypropylene (PP) resin pellets collected from four Japanese coasts. Concentrations of PCBs (4-117 ng/g), DDE (0.16-3.1 ng/g), and NP (0.13-16 microg/g) varied among the sampling sites. These concentrations were comparable to those for suspended particles and bottom sediments collected from the same area as the pellets. Field adsorption experiments using PP virgin pellets demonstrated significant and steady increase in PCBs and DDE concentrations throughout the six-day experiment, indicating that the source of PCBs and DDE is ambient seawater and that adsorption to pellet surfaces is the mechanism of enrichment. The major source of NP in the marine PP resin pellets was thought to be plastic additives and/or their degradation products. Comparison of PCBs and DDE concentrations in mari

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Plastics*
  • Seawater
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / toxicity


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical