Toxicity assessment of polyethylene microplastics in combination with a mix of emerging pollutants on Physalaemus cuvieri tadpoles

J Environ Sci (China). 2023 May:127:465-482. doi: 10.1016/j.jes.2022.05.013. Epub 2022 May 19.


Studies in recent years have shown that aquatic pollution by microplastics (MPs) can be considered to pose additional stress to amphibian populations. However, our knowledge of how MPs affect amphibians is very rudimentary, and even more limited is our understanding of their effects in combination with other emerging pollutants. Thus, we aimed to evaluate the possible toxicity of polyethylene MPs (PE-MPs) (alone or in combination with a mix of pollutants) on the health of Physalaemus cuvieri tadpoles. After 30 days of exposure, multiple biomarkers were measured, including morphological, biometric, and developmental indices, behavioral parameters, mutagenicity, cytotoxicity, antioxidant and cholinesterase responses, as well as the uptake and accumulation of PE-MPs in animals. Based on the results, there was no significant change in any of the parameters measured in tadpoles exposed to treatments, but induced stress was observed in tadpoles exposed to PE-MPs combined with the mixture of pollutants, reflecting significant changes in physiological and biochemical responses. Through principal component analysis (PCA) and integrated biomarker response (IBR) assessment, effects induced by pollutants in each test group were distinguished, confirming that the exposure of P. cuvieri tadpoles to the PE-MPs in combination with a mix of emerging pollutants induces an enhanced stress response, although the uptake and accumulation of PE-MPs in these animals was reduced. Thus, our study provides new insight into the danger to amphibians of MPs coexisting with other pollutants in aquatic environments.

Keywords: Amphibians; Aquatic pollution; Biomarkers; Emerging pollutants; Environmental toxicology; Micropollutants.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura
  • Environmental Pollutants* / analysis
  • Larva
  • Microplastics
  • Plastics / toxicity
  • Polyethylene / analysis
  • Polyethylene / toxicity
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Microplastics
  • Polyethylene
  • Plastics
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical