Article in peer reviewed journal
December 2017, Environmental Science & Technology

Qiqing Chen, Julia Reisser, Serena Cunsolo, Christiaan Kwadijk, Michiel Kotterman, Maira Proietti, Boyan Slat, Francesco F. Ferrari, Anna Schwarz, Aurore Levivier, Daqiang Yin, Henner Hollert and Albert A. Koelmans

  • Publication type: Article in peer-reviewed journal
  • Journal: Environmental Science & Technology
  • Collaborators: The Ocean Cleanup Foundation (NL), Department of Ecosystem Analysis, Institute for Environmental Research, ABBt – Aachen Biology and Biotechnology, RWTH Aachen University (DE), State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University (CN), School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, Faculty of Technology, Wageningen Marine Research, Wageningen University & Research (NL), Instituto de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (BR), State Key Laboratory of Yangtze River Water Environment, College of Environmental Science and Engineering (CN), Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University & Research (NL)
  • DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b04682
  • Submitted: 11.09.2017
  • Accepted: 29.11.2017
  • Published: 21.12.2017


Here we report concentrations of pollutants in floating plastics from the North Pacific accumulation zone (NPAC). We compared chemical concentrations in plastics of different types and sizes, assessed ocean plastic potential risks using sediment quality criteria, and discussed the implications of our findings for bioaccumulation. Our results suggest that at least a fraction of the NPAC plastics is not in equilibrium with the surrounding seawater. For instance, ‘hard plastic’ samples had significantly higher PBDE concentrations than ‘nets and ropes’ samples, and 29% of them had PBDE composition similar to a widely used flame-retardant mixture. Our findings indicate that NPAC plastics may pose a chemical risk to organisms as 84% of the samples had at least one chemical exceeding sediment threshold effect levels. Furthermore, our surface trawls collected more plastic than biomass (180 times on average), indicating that some NPAC organisms feeding upon floating particles may have plastic as a major component of their diets. If gradients for pollutant transfer from NPAC plastic to predators exist (as indicated by our fugacity ratio calculations), plastics may play a role in transferring chemicals to certain marine organisms.

  • Bioaccumulation, Chemical oceanography, Ecotoxicology, Marine debris, Microplastics, Persistent organic pollutants, Plastic pollution, Risk analysis