Microplastic fibers - Underestimated threat to aquatic organisms?

Awareness of microplastic pollution in aquatic environments increased strongly during the last decade. Environmental monitoring studies detected microplastic items in every tested water body and found them in various aquatic organisms. Yet, many studies conducted so far, refer to microplastic particles and spheres but not fibers. Microplastic fibers are often not considered due to methodological issues and high contamination risk during sampling and analysis. Only a few of the microplastic exposure studies with aquatic organisms were conducted with microplasticfibers. Recent effect studies demonstrated several negative impacts of microplastic fibers on aquatic organisms, which include tissue damage, reduced growth, and body condition and even mortality. Such negative effects were predominantly observed in taxa at the basis of the food chain. Higher taxa were less heavily affected in direct exposure experiments, but they presumably suffer from negative effects on organisms at lower food chain levels in the wild. Consequently, ongoing and future pollution with microplastic fibers may disturb the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. The present review outlines the current state of knowledge on microplastic fiber abundance in nature, bioavailability, and impacts on aquatic animals. Based on these findings, we recommend inclusion of microplastic fibers in prospective monitoring studies, discuss appropriate methods, and propose to conduct exposure studies with–as well as risk assessments of–these underestimated pollutants.



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