Distinguishing realistic environmental risks of nanoplastics by investigating fate and toxicology in real-world scenarios

Lead Research Organisation: University of Plymouth
Department Name: Sch of Biological and Marine Sciences

Abstract

Contamination of marine environments by plastic debris is a visually obvious and undesirable consequence of dramatic increases in production and use of plastics in consumer products over the last 50 years. Pieces of plastic have been found in marine environments worldwide and the need to establish levels of contamination and consequences of plastic debris has become a high priority to inform policy. Nanoplastics are manufactured (primary particles) for use in products or form by fragmentation of larger pieces (secondary particles); however, their appearance and properties appear to be indistinguishable after release to the environment. The abundance and persistence of nanoplastics presents a chronic and increasing human-induced change of marine environments on a massive scale for which assessment of risk is an urgent priority. Nanomaterials have unique properties because of their size and there is concern for unexpected toxicity in organisms because nanoplastics may be transported across cell membranes and may persist within the gut and interfere with processes of the digestive system. Investigations of nanomaterial toxicology have been conducted for over ten years, but many of these early studies do not provide the information needed for environmental scientists to assess the risks nanomaterials pose to the environment. This project is focused on providing critical information to enhance the environmental risk assessment of nanoplastics, and is based on real-world exposure scenarios. In particular, we will investigate interactions with microorganisms present in natural seawater on the formation of microorg-agglomerates of nanoplastics and how these microorg-agglomerates have different properties and therefore different environmental effects compared to nanoplastic particles. We will investigate how toxic substances associate with microorg-agglomerates and influence where nanoplastics accumulate within test marine environments (mesocosms) and whether the toxic substances are released to fish. Toxicology and effects of nanoplastics in fish and marine invertebrates after ingestion will be studied considering a variety of endpoints with a design that will enable effects to be modelled across concentrations and sizes of nanoplastics. The outcome of this project (RealRiskNano) will be to provide risk assessors with urgently needed information to evaluate the realistic risk that nanoplastics pose in marine ecosystems.

Planned Impact

Impact Summary- Distinguishing realistic environmental risks of nanoplastics by investigating fate and toxicology in real-world scenarios (RealRiskNano) (Henry, Thompson, Gutierrez, Rowland)
Anticipated outcomes of RealRiskNano: We intend to provide critical information to enable environmentally relevant risk assessments to be developed based on relations between both nanoplastic particle size and concentration, and biological effects in organisms. The importance of microorganisms in natural seawater on formation of microorg-agglomerates of nanoplastics and how these environmentally relevant particles sorb co-contaminants, accumulate in environmental compartments, and effect organisms in marine mesocosms will be determined.

Who will benefit and timeline: Benefits of the project will begin in year one of the project, will continue throughout the project, and will persist into the future as project outcomes will influence risk assessments of nanoplastics in the environment and formation of policy.

1. Government agencies in the UK with responsibility for environmental protection such as Defra, the Environment Agency, and government laboratories with responsibility for fish/shelfish disease such as the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), and companies involved in the environmental hazard and risk assessment of nanomaterials.

2. Government agencies in other countries. Dr. Henry is closely integrated into environmental nanoscience research initiatives in the US (Lead PI on US environmental Protection Agency grant in nanotoxicology, and current Lead PI on U.S. NSF project on the environmental effects of nanomaterials). Agencies within the US that will benefit from the results include the US EPA, NSF, National Institutes of Standards (with whom TB Henry has published numerous articles. TB Henry is currently project leader for EU FP7 project MARMICROTOX investgiating effects of microplastics in marine organisms. Members of the EU Commission are recognizing the importance yet lack of knowledge on nanoplastics and hence will benefit from (RealRiskNano).

3. Risk assessors in both the private and public sector are asking for research to provide the information required to characterize the risk of nanomaterials and to guide regulatory agencies on how to approach risk management of nanotechnologies.

4. The nanotechnology industry is a key player that requires information on the environmental effects of nanotechnology and is keenly aware of properly conducting environmental research to address public concerns relating to new technologies. RealRiskNano aims to resolve realistic risks of nanomaterials, and members of the nanotechnology industry will benfit from this urgently required information.

5. Shelfish harvesters/aquaculturists- understanding the presence and real risks of nanoplastics in filter feeding organisms for human consumption is important for this industry for protection of their products and markets.

How will beneficiaries benefit: It is our intent to clarify the real risks that are posed by nanoplastics in marine environments. There have been numerous overstatements, mis-statements, and lack of reproducible results on the toxicology of nanomaterials in the literature and our objective is to clarify this area of environmental science. Identifying the real risks of nanoplastics in marine environments will enable risk assessors and policy makers provide more appropriate management of this important environmental issue. With real risks understood, dedication of suitable resources will be supported, private industries can plan how to consider the environmental implications of their business, and the general public can be advised. Resources for management of environmental problems are limited and must be appropriately dedicated, understanding the real risks of nanoplastics will impact this process by providing information needed for decision making.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Radiolabelled particles allowed for the first time tracking the tissue distribution of nanoplastics at environmentally predicted concentration (15 µg/L).

A pulse exposures of 14C-radiolabeled nanopolystyrene to a commercially important mollusc, Pecten maximus, showed a rapid uptake and was greater for 24 nm than for 250 nm particles.

After 6 h, autoradiography showed accumulation of 250 nm nanoplastics in the intestine, while 24 nm particles were dispersed throughout the whole-body, possibly indicating some translocation across epithelial membranes.

Depuration was also relatively rapid for both sizes; 24 nm particles were no longer detectable after 14 days, although some 250 nm particles were still detectable after 48 days.

Bioaccumulation modelling extrapolations indicated that it could take 300 days of continued environmental exposure for uptake to reach equilibrium in scallop body tissues although the concentrations would still below 2.7 mg g-1.

see

Uptake, Whole-Body Distribution, and Depuration of Nanoplastics by the Scallop Pecten maximus at Environmentally Realistic Concentrations
Maya Al-Sid-Cheikh*† , Steve J. Rowland‡, Karen Stevenson§, Claude Rouleau?, Theodore B. Henry? , and Richard C. Thompson*†
† School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom
‡ School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom
§ Charles River, Elpinstone Research Centre, Elphinstone, Tranent EH33 2NE, United Kingdom
? Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski (ISMER), Université du Québec à Rimouski, 310 allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec Canada G5L 3A1
? Institute of Life and Earth Sciences Heriot-Watt University, John Muir Building, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, United Kingdom
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2018, 52 (24), pp 14480-14486
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b05266
Publication Date (Web): November 20, 2018
Exploitation Route The methods and approach we have developed is widely applicable for testing uptake of particulates by biota
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Environment

URL https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.8b05266?ref=highlight
 
Description Participation in advisory committee - SAPEA Biodegradability of Plastics commenced March 2020
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Participation in advisory committee and dissemination event - Defra Marine Plastic Pollution including Litter - Evidence Review & Evidence Gaps & Recommendations for Future Policy Development
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description SAPEA Report - A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Current and Future Effects of Microplastics on Marine Shelf Ecosystems (MINIMISE)
Amount £271,176 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S003967/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2019 
End 01/2022
 
Description Tracking nanoplastics at environmental concentrations
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Funding ID RM1802-0440 
Organisation Royal Society of Chemistry 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 06/2019
 
Title Radiolabelling of nano plastic particles to track them at environmental concentration 
Description I have developed synthesis of micro- and nanopalstics such as polystyrene or polyethylene with radioisotope to use techniques which have high sensitivity to measure radioactivity at environmental concentration. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We are the first to be able to track plastic particle at environmental concentration in biological tissues and to be able to provide image of whole body tissue distribution. Consequently, we avoid any artefact of extraction or histology technique because we have a direct view on the whole-body distribution by autoradiography. 
 
Description Cryomicrotom - Slicing samples 
Organisation University of Quebec at Rimouski
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We developed a collaboration with Prof. Emilien Pelletier from the University of Quebec at Rismouki (Canada) to have access to CM3600 cryomicrotome (Leica). A such large cryomicrtome is necessary to slice in one section a whole-organism. This kind of cryomicrotome is very rare and mostly dedicated for medical research. Such instrument was not available in UK.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Emilien Pelletier give me free access to his facilities such as cryomicrotome CM3600, oxidiser etc. Participate in the experimental design and results interpretations
Impact We did publish last november a first paper on the uptake of 14C-nanopolystyrene in scallops with the help of Dr Claude Rouleau form Pelletier's team. We are expecting to have two others papers on: 1) the bioaccumulation of 14C-nanopolystyrene in fish; 2) the partitioning of 14C-nanopolystyrene in microcosms experiments.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Quantitative Whole-Body Autoradiography 
Organisation University of Helsinki
Country Finland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Quantitative Whole-body Autoradiography use a phosphore screen scanner to developed the images of radioactivity. This Facilities are rare and when available dedicated for medical applications. Prof. Gareth Law, previously at the University of Manchester, is now at the University of Helsinki, accepted to collaborate on our project for the Quantitative Whole-Body Autoradiography analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. Gareth Low supported my application for the travel fellowship from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He allocate us a technicien during the time I am visiting him for the analysis and give all support for the calculation and interpretation of the results.
Impact I am analysing 2 main experiments for the Real Risk Nano Project: 1) bioaccumulation of nanoplastics by fish; 2) Mesocoms experiments. As output, we are expecting to have 2 papers: 1) Tissues distribution of nanopalstics in Fish; 2) Fractionation of nanoplastics in mesocosms experiments. These results will be also presented in international conference such as SETAC Europe or North America, Micro conference etc.
Start Year 2018
 
Description 'Marine Litter a - are there solutions to this global environmental problem?'' presentation for Environmental Nanoscience Group at Birmingham University 19/04/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar presentation and discussion plus tour of facilities ayEnvironmental Nanoscience Group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description American Chemistry Society, Annual Presidential Symposium, Washington 23/9/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact American Chemistry Society, Annual Presidential Symposium, Washington 23/9/17. Invited Keynote
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Annual Lecture, Kings College London, 30/01/18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Annual Lecture, Kings College London, 30/01/18
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Convenor of the session: 3.09 New Horizons in Particulate Polymer Analysis: Micro- and Nanoplastics and Tire Rubber Detection, Characterisation and Impacts in the Environment, in SETAC Europe, Rome 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact International conference of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) where 6,000 researchers/businessmen/industry/students are attending every years to share the most advance results on their research. Here, I am organising a session on analytical development for nano and micro plastic analysis in environment: 3.09 New Horizons in Particulate Polymer Analysis: Micro- and Nanoplastics and Tire Rubber Detection, Characterisation and Impacts in the Environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://rome.setac.org/programme/scientific-programme/
 
Description Episode of BBC Life Scientific 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Richard Thompson - Episode of the Life Scientific - Plastic Pollution
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07dkrq
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07dkrq
 
Description Healthy Landscapes Research Festival - Tracking plastic in complex matrix: Plastic in soil 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Healthy Landscapes Research Festival.We had approx. 90 attending, which was composed by diverse horizon such as farmers, Environmental agency, academics, Rothamsted etc
This festival sparked discussion between each other and created bridges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/whats-on/research-festival-healthy-landscapes
 
Description Industry Action on Microfibres Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Working group to identify research priorities for industry on microfibre pollution
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited speak at British Plastics Federation Recycling Seminar - 7 November 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Subject: Invitation to speak at British Plastics Federation Recycling Seminar - 7 November 2019

Hi Richard

I hope that you are well.

On 7 November 2019 the BPF is hosting a recycling seminar at the offices of Squire Patton Boggs near Liverpool Street Station in London.

As part of this event we are hoping to have a session looking at achieving sustainability in recycling and having listened to your recent appearance in The life scientific, the head of our recycling group Roger Baynham has requested that I approach you to talk on this topic.

We would ask you to speak on responsible use of plastic, scientific metrics of sustainability and what you think responsible use of plastics might look like and of course the role of recycling.

We would ask you to talk in a 25 minute presentation from 10.50 to 11.15 which would include 20 minutes for presentation and 5 minutes for q and a.

To give you a little bit more information about the conference, we are expecting between 50 and 60 attendees to join us on the day, the majority of whom will be recyclers, I include last year's delegate list in this email.

We are planning on having sessions at the event that will include:

. Extended Producer Responsibility - will planned reforms help our industry
. Investing in New Capacity - How to strengthen the infrastructure to be able to reach the targets
. Innovation in Black Plastics Recycling
. Chemical Recycling - an overview

Can I ask you to let me know if you would be interested in speaking at this event by a deadline of close of play on 19 July. Please do also let me know if you have any questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Microplastic and nano plastic seminar and research visit, University of Agriculture and Technology, Fuchu, Tokyo 5-7/07/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Visit to Prof Hideshige Takada, Ph.D

Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry (LOG) Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Fuchu, Tokyo 183-8509, Japan. Funded by exchange programme of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. Included national lecture and tour of facilities discussion on future collaboration. Details of approaches to beused on NERC studentship (CASE) application on sewage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Microplastics workshop Royal Society of Chemistry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I co organised this event at the RSC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Poster - Electron microscopy methods for metallic nanoparticles applied to nanoplastics: Challenges and opportunities - SETAC Brussels 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Poster on analytical development to detect nano and microplastics in natural samples. Tis poster was in the session think-out-of-the-box.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://brussels.setac.org/programme/scientific-programme/
 
Description Poster - Tracking nanoplastics in marine bivalves at environmentally realistic concentrations, SETAC Rome 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Poster presentation in the session "3.06: Distribution, transformations and biological effects of incidental nanoparticles and nanoplastics in the environment from a more realistic point of view (P)" where I will present our first results of tissue distributions in scallops
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://rome.setac.org/programme/scientific-programme/
 
Description Presentation at British Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Public lecture entitled: How concerned should we be about microplastics? Covering: definition, extent of contamination in the environment, evidence of harm, future trends and actions necessary to reduce emissions of plastic to the environment. Supported by visuals aids of 1) sources of microplastic - physical fragments from everyday items such as cosmetics and carrier bags, plastic form the gut of seabirds; and 2) consequences - physical fragments from dead seabirds. Ending with Q & A.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.britishsciencefestival.org/
 
Description Presentation at international Microplastics summer School, Koblenz, Germany 17/7/17 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation at international Microplastics summer School, Koblenz, Germany 17/7/17
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Sainsbury's & NERC Environmental Science Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Collaborative conference hosted by Sainsbury's with their suppliers and key research and government stakeholders on sustainable environmental management within future policy and regulations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Tracking nanoplastics in aquatic organisms at environmentally realistic concentrations, MICRO conference 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Conference exclusivement on the fate, behaviour and impact of plastic litter in the environment. First presentation on our ground-braking approach of tracking plastic by radio labelling. It sparked a lot of discussion and potential collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://micro2018.sciencesconf.org
 
Description Translocation of 14C-nanoplastics in the scallop Pecten maximus at environmentally realistic concentrations, SETAC Helsinki 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The most important european conference in Ecotoxicology of contaminants. About 2000 composed by researcher, industrial, and company will be present. The objectif of this conference is to present the most up to date research and knowledge of the impact of contaminants in the environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://helsinki.setac.org