Role of Microplastics in the Biomagnification of PBTs in Marine Organisms

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Donald McCorquodale

Second Advisor

George Duncan


Plastics are a highly cost-effective material which have quickly become an essential part of daily life. The high availability also creates quick discard and pollution. Plastic pollution has reached every corner of our earth and a high percentage can be found in our waterways and open oceans. Plastic debris, large and small, pose a great risk to wildlife in those environments. New studies have shown that smaller particles of plastics (ie microplastics) are possibly an even greater risk to wildlife than previously understood. Plastics in biologically active environments readily degrade and their smaller sizes allow for accidental ingestion as well as a greater possibility of PBT absorption. Accidental ingestion can lead to accumulation in gut, translocation to other tissue, inability to egest, and transfers across trophic levels. Microplastics also act as a sink for PBTs are they are more likely to absorb in debris with smaller surface areas. The ingestion of toxin-laden microplastics can lead to increased biomagnification of PBTs in marine food chains as toxins leach from the plastics into tissue once within an organism. It is important to realize the potential risk of toxic chemical accumulation in wildlife via consumption of plastics. Ingestion of toxin-laden microplastics, due to their size, is more likely to occur in planktonic species and can threaten the very foundation of the marine food web. With the inevitable proliferation of microplastics, it essential to investigate all the implications of the plastic pollution in our marine environments.

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