Polystyrene spherules in coastal waters

Science. 1972 Nov 17;178(4062):749-50. doi: 10.1126/science.178.4062.749.


Polystyrene spherules averaging 0.5 millimeter in diameter (range 0.1 to 2 millimeters) are abundant in the coastal waters of southern New England. Two types are present, a crystalline (clear) form and a white, opaque form with pigmentation resulting from a diene rubber. The spherules have bacteria on their surfaces and contain polychlorinated biphenyls, apparently absorbed from ambient seawater, in a concentration of 5 parts per million. White, opaque spherules are selectively consumed by 8 species of fish out of 14 species examined, and a chaetognath. Ingestion of the plastic may lead to intestinal blockage in smaller fish.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria
  • Connecticut
  • Digestive System / analysis
  • Fishes
  • Massachusetts
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Polystyrenes / analysis*
  • Rhode Island
  • Spectrophotometry, Infrared
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / analysis*


  • Polystyrenes
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls