In a press release published on April 9, 2020, the European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC) announced the publication of a review article on the ingestion and trophic transfer of microplastic particles, authored by Todd Gouin from the UK consultancy TG Environmental Research. Commissioned by ECETOC and published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the article reviews studies on the microplastics (MPs) in the environment and their detection in the stomachs and intestines of aquatic organisms. Published data were found for over 800 species based on samples from 87,000 individual organisms. Plastic debris and MPs are reported to have been observed in ca. 17,500 of the organisms (20%). An average of four microplastic particles per individual organism is reported across all studies, with examined studies reporting averages ranging from 0 to 10 particles per individual organism.

An overall observation of the review is that “while strong evidence exists for the biological ingestion of MPs, they do not bioaccumulate and do not appear to be subject to biomagnification as a result of trophic transfer through food webs, with >99% of observations from field‐based studies reporting MPs to be located within the gastrointestinal tract.” The review also highlights significant diversity in how samples in the studies were collected, processed, analyzed, and reported. This complicates analysis to identify temporal or spatial trends to better understand the mechanics of MP uptake and distribution within organisms. “Nevertheless, several studies suggest that the characteristics of MPs ingested by organisms [are] generally representative of plastic debris in the vicinity of where individuals are collected,” which the author argues could help assess mitigation efforts aimed at reducing plastic emissions into the environment. The study urgently recommends the development and use of standardized analytical methods for measuring MPs – a call echoed by earlier analyses (FPF reported).

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ECETOC (April 9, 2020). “‘Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’ publishes ECETOC-commissioned study into microplastics ingestion.”


Gouin, T. (March 28, 2020). “Towards improved understanding of the ingestion and trophic transfer of microplastic particles – Critical review and implications for future research.” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.