Organic pollutants in sedimentary microplastics from eastern Guangdong: Spatial distribution and source identification

Jingchun Shi, Edmond Sanganyado, Lisi Wang, Ping Li, Xiang Li, Wenhua Liu

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastics have a strong affinity for potentially toxic organic pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). Since 2005, the International Pellet Watch used plastic pellets to monitor hydrophobic organic contaminants in marine environments. We examined the spatial distribution and sources of 16 PAHs and eight OCPs on microplastics (pellets, fragments, and foam) collected from eastern Guangdong beaches with the goal of evaluating the feasibility of exclusively using pellets in global monitoring of hydrophobic organic contaminants. The ∑PAH and ∑OCP concentrations ranged from 11.2 to 7710 ng g−1 and 2.2–1970 ng g−1, respectively. Although inter-site and regional differences were insignificant in fragments and foam, regional differences were observed in ∑OCP concentrations on pellets samples collected at the estuary mouth and the distributary (p < 0.05). No regional difference in ∑PAH concentration on microplastics was observed, except between fragments from the remote beach and those from the distributary (p = 0.015) and the estuary mouth (p = 0.015). The compositional profiles of PAHs revealed that PAHs with 2–4 rings were more dominant than those with >4 rings. Considering low molecular weight PAHs are less hydrophobic and more toxic; the results suggest low molecular weight PAHs may pose a significant risk to marine organisms. This study shows that the International Pellet Watch could offer critical data on source and transport of microplastic-associated OCPs but may overlook critical vehicles of PAHs in coastal environments such as foam.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110356
Number of pages8
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Early online date25 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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