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Microplastic & Nurdle Literature

Microplastic & Nurdle Literature

Recently there has been increasing concerns about microplastics and nurdles on Texas and Gulf of Mexico beaches. There are two categories of microplastics: 1) primary microplastics, which are manufactured as microbeads, capsules, fibers or pellets (nurdles), and 2) secondary microplastics that are disintegration products of larger plastic items that have been broken down into smaller pieces  through exposure to sunlight and physical forces such as waves and currents. Interest in the environmental impacts of microplastics is growing due to increasing sitings of plastics on our shores and reports of microplastics in the stomachs contents of many marine creatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program reported that “chemical additives can leach out of microplastics into the ocean; conversely, contaminants from the water may adhere to microplastics.” There is ongoing research to determine what these contaminants might be and whether or not they are transferred through the food chain (see literature cited below). If you have any difficulties accessing the journal articles, please contact Liz DeHart, STEM Liaison Librarian for Marine Science, for assistance: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Nurdles is a term used for small spherical plastic pellets, typically several millimeters in size. They are a type of primary microplastic raw material used to manufacture plastic consumer products.  Nurdle Patrol is a Gulf-wide citizen science project initiated in November 2018, led by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (Reserve) at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute.  Nurdle Patrol volunteers collect nurdles along shorelines across the Gulf of Mexico. The goals of Nurdle Patrol are to map the locations and identify the concentrations of plastic pellets in the environment.  The purpose of this work is to increase public awareness and to visualize the distribution of nurdles across the Gulf of Mexico. Mission-Aransas Reserve is working with federal and state agencies, as well as the plastics industry, to share data about the presence of pellets on Texas and Gulf of Mexico beaches. The Reserve is also working with the Microplastics Science Team, which is a collaborative effort with multiple universities and organizations to further the science on plastics in the environment.



Tunnell, J.W., Dunning, K.H., Scheef, L.P., Swanson, K.M. 2020. Measuring plastic pellet (nurdle) abundance on shorelines throughout the Gulf of Mexico using citizen scientists: Establishing a platform for policy-relevant research. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 151. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X19309506

Rochman, C., Browne, M.A., Underwood, A.J., van Franeker, J.A., Thompson, R.C., Amaral Zettler, L.A., 2016. The ecological impacts of marine debris: unraveling the demonstrated evidence from what is perceived. Ecol. Soc. Am. 97 (2), 302–312. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1890/14-2070.1  

Gall, S.C., Thompson, R.C., 2015. The impact of debris on marine life. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 92, 170-179. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14008571

Karlsson T, Arneborg L, Brostrom G, Almroth B, Gipperth L, Hassellov M. 2018. The unaccountability case of plastic pellet pollution. Marine Pollution Bulletin 129:52-60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.01.041

Auta HS, Emenike CU, Fauziah SH. 2017. Distribution and importance of microplastics in the marine environment: A review of the sources, fate, effects, and potential solutions. Environment International 102:165-176. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2017.02.013

Avio CG, Gorbi S, Regoli F. 2017. Plastics and microplastics in the oceans: From emerging pollutants to emerged threat. Marine Environmental Research 128:2-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2016.05.012

Li WC, Tse HF, Fok L. 2016. Plastic waste in the marine environment: A review of sources, occurrence and effects. The Science of the Total Environment 566-567:333-349. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.084


Sources & Distribution

Redford DP, Trulli HK, Trulli WR. 1997. Sources of plastic pellets in the aquatic environment. In: Coe JM, Rogers DB (eds) Marine Debris. Springer Series on Environmental Management. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4613-8486-1_30

Ryan PG, Perold V, Osborne A, and Moloney CL. 2018. Consistent patterns of debris on South African beaches indicate that industrial pellets and other mesoplastic items mostly derive from local sources. Environmental Pollution 238:1008-1016. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.02.017

US EPA. 1992. Plastic pellets in the aquatic environment: sources and recommendations: Final Report EPA842-B-92-010. United States Environmental Protection Agency (WH556F).

US EPA. 1993. Plastic pellets in the aquatic environment: sources and recommendations: A Summary. United States Environmental Protection Agency 842-S-93-001.

van Franeker J, Law K. 2015. Seabirds, gyres and global trends in plastic pollution. Environmental Pollution 203:89-96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2015.02.034

Schmidt, C., Krauth, T., Wagner, S., 2017. Export of plastic debris by Rivers into the sea. Environ. Sci. Technol. 51, 12246–12253. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b02368 

Jambeck, J.R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T., Perryman, M., Andrandy, A., Narayan, R., Law, K.L., 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 347, 768–771. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768 

Marin JM, Jambeck JR, Ondich BL, Norton TM. 2019. Comparing quantity of marine debris to loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting and non-nesting emergency activity on Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA. Marine Pollution Bulletin 139:1-5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.11.066

Wessel, C. C., Lockridge, G. R., Battiste, D., & Cebrian, J. (2016). Abundance and characteristics of microplastics in beach sediments: insights into microplastic accumulation in northern Gulf of Mexico estuaries. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 109(1), 178-183. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.06.002

Di Mauro, R., Kupchik, M. J., & Benfield, M. C. (2017). Abundant plankton-sized microplastic particles in shelf waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Pollution, 230, 798-809. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.07.030

Beckwith, V. K., & Fuentes, M. M. (2018). Microplastic at nesting grounds used by the northern Gulf of Mexico loggerhead recovery unit. Marine pollution bulletin, 131, 32-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.04.001

Yu, X., Ladewig, S., Bao, S., Toline, C. A., Whitmire, S., & Chow, A. T. (2018). Occurrence and distribution of microplastics at selected coastal sites along the southeastern United States. Science of the Total Environment, 613, 298-305. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.09.100


Evidence of Ingestion

Karlsson T, Vethaak A, Almroth B, Ariese F, Velzen M, Hassellov M, Leslie H. 2017. Screening for microplastics in sediment, water, marine invertebrates and fish: method development and microplastic accumulation. Marine Pollution Bulletin 122(1-2):403-408. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.06.081

Setala O, Norkko J, Lehtiniemi M. 2016. Feeding type affects microplastic ingestion in a coastal invertebrate community. Marine Pollution Bulletin 102(1):95-101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.11.053

Sun X, Li Q, Shi Y, Zhao Y, Zheng S, Liang J, Liu T, Tian Z. Characteristics and retention of microplastics in the digestive tracts of fish from the Yellow Sea. Environmental Pollution 249:878-885. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2019.01.110

Browne M, Dissanayake A, Galloway T, Lowe D, Thompson R. 2008. Ingested microscopic plastic translocates to the circulatory system of the mussel, Mytilus edulis (L.). Environmental Science and Technology 42(13)5026-5031. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es800249a

Windsor FM, Tilley RM, Tyler CR, Ormerod SJ. 2019. Microplastic ingestion by riverine macroinvertebrates. The Science of the Total Environment 646:68-74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.271

Holmes L, Turner A, Thompson R. 2012. Adsorption of trace metals to plastic resin pellets in the marine environment. Environmental Pollution 160:42-48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2011.08.052

Mato Y, Isobe T, Takada H, Kanehiro H, Ohtake C, Kaminuma T. 2001. Plastic resin pellets as a transport medium for toxic chemicals in the marine environment. Environmental Science and Technology 35(2):318-324. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/es0010498

Rochman C, Hoh E, Hentschel B, Kaye S. 2013. Long-term field measurement of sorption of organic contaminants to five types of plastic pellets: implications for plastic marine debris. Environmental Science and Technology 47(3):1646-1654 https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es303700s

Rodrigues A, Oliver DM, McCarron A, and Quilliam RS. 2019. Colonisation of plastic pellets (nurdles) by E. coli at public bathing beaches. Marine Pollution Bulletin 139:376-380. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.01.011

Keswani A, Oliver DM, Gutierrez T, and Quilliam RS. 2016. Microbial hitchhikers on marine plastic debris: Human exposure risks at bathing waters and beach environments. Marine Environmental Research 118:10-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marenvres.2016.04.006


Phillips, M. B., & Bonner, T. H. (2015). Occurrence and amount of microplastic ingested by fishes in watersheds of the Gulf of Mexico. Marine pollution bulletin, 100(1), 264-269. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.08.041

Peters, C. A., Thomas, P. A., Rieper, K. B., & Bratton, S. P. (2017). Foraging preferences influence microplastic ingestion by six marine fish species from the Texas Gulf Coast. Marine pollution bulletin, 124(1), 82-88. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.06.080


Transfer of Contaminates to Marine Organisms

Overview Article: de Sa LC, Oliveira M, Ribeiro F, Rocha TL, Futter MN. 2018. Studies of the effects of microplastics on aquatic organisms: What do we know and where should we focus our efforts in the future? The Science of the Total Environment 645:1029-1039. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.07.207

Koelmans A, Bakir A, Burton G, Janssen C. 2016. Microplastic as a vector for chemicals in the aquatic environment: critical review and model-supported reinterpretation of empirical studies. Environmental Science and Technology 50(7):3315-3326. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b06069

Teuten E, Saquing J, Knappe D, Barlaz M, Jonsson S, Bjorn A, Rowland S, Thompson R, Galloway T, Yamashita R, Ochih D, Watanuki Y, Moore C, Viet P, Tana T, Prudente M, Boonyatumanond R, Zakaria M, Akkhavong K, Ogata Y, Hirai H, Iwasa S, Mizukawa K, Hagino Y, Imamura A, Saha M, Takada H. 2009. Transport and release of chemicals from plastics to the environment and to wildlife. Royal Society https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2008.0284 

Wardrop P, Shimeta J, Nugegoda D, Morrison P, Miranda A, Tang M, Clarke B. 2016. Chemical pollutants sorbed to ingested microbeads from personal care products ccumulate in fish. Environmental Science and Technology 50(7):4037-4044. HTTPS://PUBS.ACS.ORG/DOI/10.1021/ACS.EST.5B06280

Tanaka K, Takada H, Yamashita R, Mizukawa K, Fukuwaka MA, Watanuki Y. Accumulation of plastic-derived chemicals in tissues of seabirds ingesting marine plastics. Marine Pollution Bulletin 69(1-2):219-22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.12.010

Fackelmann G, Sommer S. 2019. Microplastics and the gut microbiome: how chronically exposed species may suffer from gut dysbiosis. Marine Pollution Bulletin 143:193-203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.04.030

Rochman C, Hoh E, Kurobe T, Teh S. 2013. Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress. Scientific Reports 3:3263. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038%2Fsrep03263

von Moos N, Burkhardt-Holm P, Kohler A. 2012. Uptake and effects of microplastics on cells and tissue of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis L. after an experimental exposure. Environmental Science and Technology 46(20):11327-35. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/es302332w

Ziajahromi S, Kumar A, Neale PA, Leusch FDL. 2018. Environmentally relevant concentrations of polyethylene microplastics negatively impact the survival, growth and emergence of sediment-dwelling invertebrates. Environmental Pollution 236:425-431. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.01.094

Pinnell, L.J., Turner, J.W. 2019. Shotgun Metagenomics Reveals the Benthic Microbial Community Response to Plastic and Bioplastic in a Coastal Marine Environment. Front. Microbiol., 07 June 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2019.01252


Potential Human Health Hazards

Lehner R, Weder C, Petri-Fink A, Rothen-Rutishauser B. 2019. Emergence of nanoplastic in the environment and possible impact on human health. Environmental Science and Technology 53(4):1748-1765. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.8b05512

Karbalaei S, Hanachi P, Walker TR, Cole M. 2018. Occurrence, sources, human health impacts and mitigation of microplastic pollution. Environmental Science and Pollution Research International 25(36):36046-36063. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-3508-7

Gallo F, Fossi C, Weber R, Santillo D, Sousa J, Ingram I, Nadal A, Romano D. 2018 Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures. Environmental Sciences Europe 30(1):13. https://dx.doi.org/10.1186%2Fs12302-018-0139-z

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