Occurrence and distribution of microplastics-sorbed phthalic acid esters (PAEs) in coastal psammitic sediments of tropical Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Guinea

Date of publication 15 June 2020

Authors Benson, Nsikak U.; Fred-Ahmadu, Omowunmi H.

Sources The Science of the total environment : 730, 139013.

DOILink https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139013


Baseline microplastic pollution and the occurrence, spatial distribution and ecological risk of microplastic-sorbed phthalate esters (PAEs) in littoral sandflat sediments of the Gulf of Guinea were investigated. A total of 150 sediment samples were collected using a 0.5 × 0.5 × 0.2 m quadrant placed along designated high, drift and current waterlines at five (5) beaches. Analysis for 6 PAEs-sorbed to microplastics (MPs) was carried out using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Microplastic particles (1-5 mm) were identified visually and FTIR spectroscopy was also used for identification. The MPs distribution was variably heterogenous with a total of 3424 particles per m2 found within the drift and high waterlines across all sites. Results indicated fragments as the dominant microplastic type compared to pellets and fibres. Polyethylene terephthalate was the major polymer type and accounted for a weighted average of 41% of the total plastics, followed by polystyrene (28%), and polypropylene (21%). The ∑6PAEs concentration ranged from BDL to 164.09 mg/kg dw, dominated by di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DnBP), and dimethyl phthalate. The preliminary ecological risk assessment of PAEs in the microplastic fraction, RQmp, showed DEHP and DnBP may present medium to high biological risks to marine organisms, suggesting that future study of PAEs in total sediment versus the MP fraction might be useful to refine ecological risk assessments. Land-based anthropogenic activities are primary sources of MPs, whereas oceanographic peculiarities of the area constitute the major distribution driving force.

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