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One of the most widely used types of biodegradable plastics today, it releases nanoparticles that are also toxic to organisms in aquatic ecosystems.
Biodegradable plastics - plastics that can be degraded by microorganisms - are emerging as an alternative to prevent the accumulation of plastics in the environment for long periods of time.
But an investigation of the Autonomous University of Madrid and the University of Alcalá published in the magazineEnvironmental Science: Nano, reveals that polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), one of the most common of these biodegradable plastics, releases ‘nanoplastics’ during its degradation process that produce toxic effects on organisms in aquatic ecosystems.
Nanoplastics are fragments 400 times thinner than the thickness of a human hair.
The results show that the nanoplastics obtained after the degradation of polyhydroxybutyrate plastics exert toxic effects on two primary producers of inland waters, specifically an alga and a cyanobacterium.
Primary producers play a key role in ecosystems, as they are the basis of the food web, so that if these are affected, the entire ecosystem may be damaged.
The work, in which researchers from the University of Alcalá (UAH) also participate, also analyzed the effects that these nanoplastics produce at higher levels of the trophic web. According to the results, nanoplastics also produce effects on primary consumers (specifically on a crustacean representative of its trophic level).
Miguel González-Pleiter, Miguel Tamayo-Belda, Gerardo Pulido-Reyes, Georgiana Amariei, Francisco Leganés, Roberto Rosal and Francisca Fernández-Piñas. "Secondary nanoplastics released from a biodegradable microplastic severely impact freshwater environments".Environ. Sci .: Nano, 2019, 6, 1382–1392. DOI: 10.1039 / c8en01427b
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