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Microplastics as contaminants in the marine environment: a review

Matthew Cole, Pennie Lindeque, Claudia Halsband, Tamara S Galloway
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2011, 62 (12): 2588-97
22001295
Since the mass production of plastics began in the 1940s, microplastic contamination of the marine environment has been a growing problem. Here, a review of the literature has been conducted with the following objectives: (1) to summarise the properties, nomenclature and sources of microplastics; (2) to discuss the routes by which microplastics enter the marine environment; (3) to evaluate the methods by which microplastics are detected in the marine environment; (4) to assess spatial and temporal trends of microplastic abundance; and (5) to discuss the environmental impact of microplastics. Microplastics are both abundant and widespread within the marine environment, found in their highest concentrations along coastlines and within mid-ocean gyres. Ingestion of microplastics has been demonstrated in a range of marine organisms, a process which may facilitate the transfer of chemical additives or hydrophobic waterborne pollutants to biota. We conclude by highlighting key future research areas for scientists and policymakers.

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