Implications of Plastic Debris of all Sizes for the Environment and Human Health
Pollution with plastic is one of today’s major water quality problems. Microplastic particles have been detected in the oceans, at beaches and in freshwater systems throughout the world. Macroplastic, microplastics and nanoplastics may pose a risk to freshwater and marine ecosystems, and potentially for human health.
The main objective of the research is to:
Assess the risks of micro- and nanoplastic for the freshwater and marine environment, as well as for human health, by means of monitoring the abundance of plastic in the environment, by assessing the fate, exposure and effect of plastic and associated chemicals on for biota including humans, and by developing mechanistic models that can assist in the risk assessment.
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Content of the research:
- We will develop methods to detect and quantify microplastic in water, sediments and biota and apply these methods to assess the occurrence of plastic in the environment and in biota (Publication).
- We will perform fate and fate modeling studies. This includes experimental studies of biofouling, aggregation and sedimentation of nano- and microplastic (i.e. as ‘marine snow’), modeling the role of bioturbation and filtration by filter feeders on sedimentation-resuspension of microplastic, detailed modeling of nano- and microplastic transport in rivers, multi-media modeling of nanoplastic, and modeling vertical oceanic gradients of plastic abundance.
- We will perform bioassays to assess dose-response relationships and effect thresholds for aquatic species, in order to obtain species sensitivity distributions (SSD) for microplastics. The resulting community level effect thresholds will be validated against in situ community effect studies, including studies of recolonization at sites impacted by microplastic.
- We will perform plastic bioaccumulation studies with single species as well as communities representing food webs, using in- and outdoor cosms of various scales. We will use ‘clean’ as well as contaminated plastics in order to be able to assess the role of plastic ingestion or bioaccumulation in the bioaccumulation of plastic-associated chemicals (Publication).
- We will develop a plastic-inclusive bioaccumulation model that is able to simulate the effects of plastic on the bioaccumulation of plastic-associated chemicals by including plastic as part of the diet (Publication).
- We will combine the information on fate and effects from our studies into a risk assessment, which is meant to support the international policy development with respect to microplastic and nanoplastic in the environment.