Marine (micro)plastic litter and pollutant metals interaction: a possible pathway from marine environment to human
With annual production of 350 megatons (and rising), plastics have been recognized as one of the main pollutants, long-living, slowly decomposing and accumulating in oceans, while Adriatic becomes one of the most polluted seas regarding plastic litter. Another hazardous component in ocean are TMs that pose a substantial threat for the human health and marine biota. Once TM interact with marine plastic litter, hence concentrate/accumulate, it could become threat for the various coastal ecosystems.
Interdisciplinary research involves wide spectrum of scientists and experts in the fields of oceanology, analytical chemistry, polymer chemistry, geology, biology and ecological modelling. Specific objectives are: characteristics assessment of polymer, and microplastics from marine environment; studying TM adsorption on unused polymers and on environmental microplastics; analysing TM distribution in coastal waters, sediments, microplastics and marine organisms as a possible direct and/or indirect threat to human, as well as the processes that govern TM biogeochemical cycles among them; study the effects of organic matter as well as specific marine microorganism communities (microbiome) from sediment on TM interaction with microplastics.
We will use the most recent approaches utilizing electrochemical and spectrometric techniques. Results will enable us to develop an ecological model of TM-microplastics interactions, to predict TM-microplastic impact on coastal ecosystems and to find optimal method in weakening its threat.
The specific objectives are selected to enable the outcome of the project be valuable not only to the broad scientific community, but also to end-users such as authorities that manage coastal zones. New findings can be the basis for a better risk assessment in order to improve the environmental quality.