Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Synthetic polymers (plastics) enter marine environments from terrestrial and marine-based sources. The manner of release, the plastic’s composition/properties and ambient marine conditions determine debris fate and its impacts on living resources. It was long assumed that all plastics were persistent and inert, possessing negligible potential for chemical impacts. However, in reality, commercial polymers exhibit a range of potentials for interactions. Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals are lipophilic and may concentrate from ambient waters by orders of magnitude on polymer surfaces (Teuten et al., 2007). The type of polymer affects the degree of PBT sorption. Indeed, plastics have been found useful as passive samplers for measuring ambient concentrations of PBTs. Polymers also may be affected chemically or physically by weathering, e.g. exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (Andrady, 2011), or fragmentation by abrasion, such as on a beach. While additives can leach from plastics into the water, migration studies pertinent to the marine environment are rare. The picture is complicated further as weathering itself may alter the extent of PBT leaching and sorption. More ....



plastics, marine pollution, PBT sorption

Publication Statement

Marine Debris Program Final Report. NA13NOS4630062