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The complex issue of chemicals and microplastic pollution: A case study in North Pacific lanternfish

Gassel, Margy, Rochman, Chelsea M.
Environmental pollution 2019 v.248 pp. 1000-1009
Myctophidae, aquatic food webs, bioaccumulation, bisphenol A, case studies, chemical pollutants, fish, laboratory experimentation, marine ecosystems, microplastics, nonylphenols, octylphenols, pesticides, pollution, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated biphenyls, Pacific Ocean
Marine plastic debris, including microplastics (<5 mm in size), comprises a suite of chemical ingredients and sorbed chemical contaminants. Thus, microplastics are a potential, and debated, source of anthropogenic chemicals for bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Several studies have investigated the role of microplastics as a vector of contaminants to marine organisms via modeling exercises, laboratory experiments, and field studies. Here, we examined relationships among chemical contaminants and microplastics in lanternfish (family Myctophidae), an important link in marine food webs, from the North Pacific Ocean as a case study from the field. We compared the body burden of several chemical groups (bisphenol A [BPA], nonylphenol [4-NP], octylphenol [4n-OP], alkylphenol ethoxylates [APEs], pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], and polybrominated diphenyl ethers [PBDEs]) in fish caught within and outside the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre where plastic is known to accumulate. We also tested whether there was a relationship between chemical concentrations in fish and plastic density at each sampling location. Mean concentrations of common plastic constituents (BPA, 4-NP, 4n-OP, APEs, and total PBDEs) were comparable between myctophids collected within and outside the North Pacific Gyre. Pesticides were higher in lanternfish caught outside the gyre and were associated with lower plastic density. Total PCBs were also higher in fish outside the gyre. In contrast, lower chlorinated PCB congeners were higher in fish residing in the accumulation zone and were correlated with higher plastic density. This finding is consistent with other studies demonstrating an association between lower chlorinated PCBs and plastics in biota and suggests that microplastic may be a transport mechanism for some chemicals in nature.