Effects of microplastic on fitness and PCB bioaccumulation by the lugworm Arenicola marina

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It has been speculated that marine microplastics may cause negative effects on benthic marine organisms and increase bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Here, we provide the first controlled study of plastic effects on benthic organisms including transfer of POPs. The effects of polystyrene (PS) microplastic on survival, activity, and bodyweight, as well as the transfer of 19 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), were assessed in bioassays with Arenicola marina (L.). PS was pre-equilibrated in natively contaminated sediment. A positive relation was observed between microplastic concentration in the sediment and both uptake of plastic particles and weight loss by A. marina. Furthermore, a reduction in feeding activity was observed at a PS dose of 7.4% dry weight. A low PS dose of 0.074% increased bioaccumulation of PCBs by a factor of 1.1-3.6, an effect that was significant for SPCBs and several individual congeners. At higher doses, bioaccumulation decreased compared to the low dose, which however, was only significant for PCB105. PS had statistically significant effects on the organisms' fitness and bioaccumulation, but the magnitude of the effects was not high. This may be different for sites with different plastic concentrations, or plastics with a higher affinity for POPs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-600
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • dutch wadden sea
  • polychlorinated-biphenyls
  • corophium-volutator
  • organic pollutants
  • plastic ingestion
  • tidal flats
  • sediment
  • environment
  • transport
  • chemicals


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