Hazardous Chemicals in Plastics in Marine Environments: International Pellet Watch

  • Rei Yamashita
  • Kosuke Tanaka
  • Bee Geok Yeo
  • Hideshige TakadaEmail author
  • Jan A. van Franeker
  • Megan Dalton
  • Eric Dale
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 78)


Marine plastic debris, including microplastics <5 mm, contain additives as well as hydrophobic chemicals sorbed from surrounding seawater. A volunteer-based global monitoring programme entitled International Pellet Watch (IPW) is utilizing the sorptive nature of plastics, more specifically of beached polyethylene (PE) pellets, in order to measure persistent organic pollutants (POPs) throughout the world. Spatial patterns of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides have been revealed. Original data of IPW show large piece-to-piece variability in PCB concentrations in pellets collected at each location. This is explained by the combination of slow sorption/desorption and large variabilities of speed and route of floating plastics. The sporadically high concentrations of POPs, both sorbed chemicals and hydrophobic additives, are frequently observed in pellets and the other microplastics in open ocean and remote islands. This poses a chemical threat to marine ecosystems in remote areas.


Additives Equilibrium Open ocean Pellets Sorption 



The authors acknowledge volunteers for IPW for collecting and sending the pellets from beaches worldwide. The authors thank Dr. Takashi Miyao of Japan Meteorological Agency for providing the buoyant microplastic samples from Pacific Ocean. The authors thank Mr. Okazaki for treatment of the microplastic samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rei Yamashita
    • 1
  • Kosuke Tanaka
    • 1
  • Bee Geok Yeo
    • 1
  • Hideshige Takada
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jan A. van Franeker
    • 2
  • Megan Dalton
    • 3
  • Eric Dale
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory of Organic GeochemistryTokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan
  2. 2.Wageningen Marine ResearchDen HelderThe Netherlands
  3. 3.US Fish and Wildlife ServiceWashington, DCUSA

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