Long-term field measurement of sorption of organic contaminants to five types of plastic pellets: implications for plastic marine debris

Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Feb 5;47(3):1646-54. doi: 10.1021/es303700s. Epub 2013 Jan 9.

Abstract

Concerns regarding marine plastic pollution and its affinity for chemical pollutants led us to quantify relationships between different types of mass-produced plastic and organic contaminants in an urban bay. At five locations in San Diego Bay, CA, we measured sorption of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) throughout a 12-month period to the five most common types of mass-produced plastic: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polypropylene (PP). During this long-term field experiment, sorption rates and concentrations of PCBs and PAHs varied significantly among plastic types and among locations. Our data suggest that for PAHs and PCBs, PET and PVC reach equilibrium in the marine environment much faster than HDPE, LDPE, and PP. Most importantly, concentrations of PAHs and PCBs sorbed to HDPE, LDPE, and PP were consistently much greater than concentrations sorbed to PET and PVC. These data imply that products made from HDPE, LDPE, and PP pose a greater risk than products made from PET and PVC of concentrating these hazardous chemicals onto fragmented plastic debris ingested by marine animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Animals
  • Bays
  • California
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis*
  • Plastics / chemistry*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Time Factors
  • Waste Products / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*

Substances

  • Organic Chemicals
  • Plastics
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Waste Products
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls