Quantitation of persistent organic pollutants adsorbed on plastic debris from the Northern Pacific Gyre's "eastern garbage patch"

J Environ Monit. 2010 Dec;12(12):2226-36. doi: 10.1039/c0em00239a. Epub 2010 Nov 1.


Floating marine plastic debris was found to function as solid-phase extraction media, adsorbing and concentrating pollutants out of the water column. Plastic debris was collected in the North Pacific Gyre, extracted, and analyzed for 36 individual PCB congeners, 17 organochlorine pesticides, and 16 EPA priority PAHs. Over 50% contained PCBs, 40% contained pesticides, and nearly 80% contained PAHs. The PAHs included 2, 3 and 4 ring congeners. The PCBs were primarily CB-11, 28, 44, 52, 66, and 101. The pesticides detected were primarily p,p-DDTs and its metabolite, o,p-DDD, as well as BHC (a,b,g and d). The concentrations of pollutants found ranged from a few ppb to thousands of ppb. The types of PCBs and PAHs found were similar to those found in marine sediments. However, these plastic particles were mostly polyethylene which is resistant to degradation and although functioning similarly to sediments in accumulating pollutants, these had remained on or near the ocean surface. Particles collected included intact plastic items as well as many pieces less than 5 mm in size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Garbage
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Plastics*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Plastics
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls