Short-term exposure with high concentrations of pristine microplastic particles leads to immobilisation of Daphnia magna

Chemosphere. 2016 Jun;153:91-9. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.02.133. Epub 2016 Mar 21.


Recent studies revealed that freshwaters are not only polluted by chemicals, but also by persistent synthetic material like microplastics (plastic particles <1 mm). Microplastics include a diverse range of characteristics, e.g. polymer type, size or shape, but also their tendency to sorb pollutants or release additives. Although there is rising concern about the pollution of freshwaters by microplastics, knowledge about their potential effects on organisms is limited. For a better understanding of their risks, it is crucial to unravel which characteristics influence their effects on organisms. Analysing effects by the mere particles is the first step before including more complex interactions e.g. with associated chemicals. The aim of this study was to analyse potential physical effects of microplastics on one representative organism for limnic zooplankton (Daphnia magna). We investigated whether microplastics can be ingested and whether their presence causes adverse effects after short-term exposure. Daphnids were exposed for up to 96 h to 1-μm and 100-μm polyethylene particles at concentrations between 12.5 and 400 mg L(-1). Ingestion of 1-μm particles led to immobilisation increasing with dose and time with an EC50 of 57.43 mg L(-1) after 96 h. 100-μm particles that could not be ingested by the daphnids had no observable effects. These results underline that, considering high concentrations, microplastic particles can already induce adverse effects in limnic zooplankton. Although it needs to be clarified if these concentrations can be found in the environment these results are a basis for future impact analysis, especially in combination with associated chemicals.

Keywords: Acute effects; Freshwater; Microplastics; Polyethylene; Zooplankton.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Daphnia / drug effects*
  • Particle Size
  • Plastics / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*
  • Zooplankton / drug effects*


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical