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Potentially poisonous plastic particles: microplastics as a vector for cyanobacterial toxins microcystin-LR and microcystin-LF.

Pestana, Carlos J.; Moura, Diana S.; Capelo-Neto, Jos�; Edwards, Christine; Dreisbach, Domenic; Spengler, Bernhard; Lawton, Linda A.


Jos� Capelo-Neto

Domenic Dreisbach

Bernhard Spengler


The potential of microplastics to act as a vector for micropollutants of natural or anthropogenic origin is of rising concern. Cyanobacterial toxins, including microcystins, are harmful to humans and wildlife. In this study, we demonstrate for the first time the potential of microplastics to act as vectors for two different microcystin analogues. A concentration of up to 28 times from water to plastic was observed for the combination of polystyrene and microcystin-LF achieving toxin concentrations on the plastic of 142 ± 7 μg g–1. Based on the experimental results, and assuming a worst-case scenario, potential toxin doses for daphnids are calculated based on published microplastic ingestion data. Progressing up through trophic levels, theoretically, the concentration of microcystins in organisms is discussed. The experimental results indicate that adsorption of microcystins onto microplastics is a multifactorial process, depending on the particle size, the variable amino acid composition of the microcystins, the type of plastic, and pH. Furthermore, the results of the current study stressed the limitations of exclusively investigating microcystin-LR (the most commonly studied microcystin congener) as a model compound representing a group of around 250 reported microcystin congeners.


PESTANA, C.J., MOURA, D.S., CAPELO-NETO, J., EDWARDS, C., DREISBACH, D., SPENGLER, B. and LAWTON, L.A. 2021. Potentially poisonous plastic particles: microplastics as a vector for cyanobacterial toxins microcystin-LR and microcystin-LF. Environmental science and technology [online], 55(23), pages 15940-15949. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 27, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 11, 2021
Publication Date Dec 7, 2021
Deposit Date Nov 18, 2021
Publicly Available Date Nov 18, 2021
Journal Environmental Science and Technology
Print ISSN 0013-936X
Electronic ISSN 1520-5851
Publisher American Chemical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 55
Issue 23
Pages 15940-15949
Keywords Microcystins; Microplastics; Trophic accumulation; Freshwater; Cyanotoxins; Cyanobacteria
Public URL
Additional Information The accompanying file for this output contains supplementary information (5 figures, 5 tables and 2 equations) which can be found at pages 12-25.


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