Ocean pollution from microplastics could be higher than estimated

Microplastic pollution in the ocean may be worse than previously thought.

Microplastic pollution is one of the environmental issues threatening our ecosystems, and it is gaining popularity among the general public. The Mediterranean, in particular, is one of the regions of the globe with the greatest concentration of plastics.

Because of the high population and marine dynamics in the area, the floating pollutants are stuck in the basin, with little opportunity of escaping into the Atlantic Ocean, this sea has pollution levels equivalent to the vast patch of marine debris in the Pacific Ocean.

Because the scientific discipline that examines this subject is relatively new and its methodologies are constantly evolving, defining the best relevant phrases and approaches to identify them is difficult. “Plastic materials are numerous and diverse, with unique properties that make it difficult to develop a standard framework for analyzing them all in the same way. Furthermore, additions like colors and retardants add to the complexity “Laura Simón, a researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona’s Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, adds (ICTA-UAB).

The expert is the lead author of a paper published in the scientific journal Environmental Pollution that shows how the wide range of scientific tools and procedures utilized in the study of microplastic contamination of seas and oceans restricts existing knowledge of this major environmental issue.

These are the findings of a review of studies that looked at the occurrence of these chemicals on beaches and in the Mediterranean Sea’s water, both at the surface and in the water column, as well as in marine sediments. Their findings reveal that microplastic levels in the Mediterranean are likely higher than previously thought, but the methods utilized prevented them from being measured.

A large number of particles are not collected.

According to the report, laboratory sample procedures are extremely varied, “and while this has permitted great advancement in this scientific discipline, it has also meant that many of the data gathered thus far cannot be compared.” The researchers are aware that this has an impact on the scientific community’s present understanding of the problem.

According to the study, 82.8 percent of the 3,000 samples gathered in the last decade were taken in coastal areas, leaving the scientific community with less evidence to explain microplastic dispersal in the open ocean.

In addition, to sample surface waters, nets with a mesh size of 200 microns or more have been employed in the past, preventing the capture of finer particles.

According to studies, the Mediterranean Sea’s surface waters contain 84,800 microplastics per km2, 300 microplastics per kilogram of marine sediment, and 59 microplastics per kilogram of beach sand.

“Because the number of microplastics in the natural environment increases as their size reduces, the levels of microplastics in the Mediterranean are definitely higher,” says Patrizia Ziveri, leader of the research line at ICTA-UAB. “However, due to the methods utilized, we are not able to document them.”

Plastics dumping place on the seabed

The majority of plastics float in the ocean. The seafloor, on the other hand, is thought to be the last dumping place for microplastics.

“We still know very little about the mechanisms that transport microplastics from surface waters to the bottom,” says Michael Grelaud, an ICTA-UAB researcher. “We need further investigations in the water column for that.”

As a result, the researchers emphasize the significance of establishing a standard framework for comparing data and combining approaches in order to characterize the wide range of plastic pollutants in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as their possible consequences. They also propose for further international cooperation among Mediterranean countries, as the eastern section of the basin and North Africa are currently under-sampled.

 

Article Author Gerluxe image: reusethisbag