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Plastics and the Marine Environment

Recently Professor of Universidade de Vigo and head of ECOTOX Ricardo Beiras has participated in a radio show focusing on the issue of plastics in the environment. He has pointed out that it is a global problem, since the area of accumulation is offshore, but storms can bring them to the shore line anywhere in the world. It has been said that plastics are composed of a polymer (physical matrix) and additives (chemical substances that provide the necessary characteristics to fulfill their function). He commented that one of the problems of plastics is that they do not degrade in the environment, but they are fragmented into smaller particles, ranging from centimeters to millimeters (microplastics) and even nanometers (nanoplastics, size less than 1 micron), accessing the trophic chain at the lowest levels, ingested by plankton and filtering organisms, and reaching the highest trophic levels. The Ecotox group has developed standard tests that allow quantifying the toxic effects of microplastics on marine organisms, but the difficulty of detecting sublethal effects that affect the metabolism of hormones and that lead to longer exposure times has been discussed.


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