PROJECT PLAS-MED – Microplastics and microcontaminantes in the Mediterranean coast: Toxicity and environmental and human health impacts

FUNDING AGENCY

Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) - CTM 2017-9701-C3

DURATION

2018-2020

COORDINATOR

Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA)

LEAD RESEARCHER

Dr. Sara Rodríguez-Mozaz

RESEARCHER

Nuria Càceres, José María Castaño, Dr. Lucia Helena Moreira, Albert Serra, Dr. Marta Villagrasa, Ferran Romero

AMOUNT FOR THE ICRA

132.000,00 €

Background

Due to their persistence and the present lifestyle, microplastics have been recognized by the scientific community as an emerging risk for the environment and human health. Microplastics are defined as plastic particles with less than 5 mm of size that can have different sources (i.e. cosmetics, personal care products, environmental fragmentation of plastics, etc.).  The problematic of the aquatic contamination by microplastics is complex, multidimensional and transversal to different sectors, having a global impact not only in the environment, but also in the economy, public health and food safety. Besides microplastics may also be a source of other contaminants, since they can leach additives and plasticizers used in their production into the environment. Moreover, they have a great potential to adsorb persistent and emerging organic contaminants from the water column as well, accumulating them. Microplastics may thus act as vectors of other contaminants, facilitating their transference and availability to the aquatic organisms, which could impact their bioaccumulation and toxicity.

 

Description

Following a multidisciplinary and integrated approach, the main objective of the project PLAS-MED will be to evaluate the presence, behavior, fate and impact of microplastics in marine and freshwater systems, taking the Mediterranean coast as a case study. The presence of microplastics, persistent and emerging organic contaminants will be monitored in the Delta Ebro and the Mar Menor lagoon areas. The potential of adsorption of persistent and emerging organic contaminants to microplastics will also be assessed in mesocosms studies, in order to determine their contribution in the transference of contaminants to the aquatic organisms. Bioaccumulation, toxicity and metabolic changes in the aquatic organisms in response to the exposure to contaminants will be studied as well as the impact that the concomitant presence of microplastics might have. Besides the evaluation of the environmental risk posed by microplastics, the project PLAS-MED will also investigate the potential risk for human health through the consumption of contaminated fish and seafood, including the effects from food preparation.

 

Impact

The impact of microplastics in the environment and human health has been a hot research topic over the last years. Although the scientific community has been committed with this problematic, many questions still remain unanswered. PLAS-MED will contribute to broaden the knowledge on the presence, effects and risks for the environment and human health associated to the presence of microplastics in coastal waters. This project will generate new scientific knowledge that will contribute to the protection of the marine environment, the sustainable development of the coast and the protection of fisheries, aquaculture, human health, social welfare and tourism.