Effects of Different Microplastics on Nematodes in the Soil Environment: Tracking the Extractable Additives Using an Ecotoxicological Approach
Shin Woong Kim, Kim Orcid, Walter R. Waldman, Tae-Young Kim, and Matthias C. Rillig
Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 21, 13868–13878
With increasing interest in the effects of microplastics on the soil environment, there is a need to thoroughly evaluate the potential adverse effects of these particles as a function of their characteristics (size, shape, and composition). In addition, extractable chemical additives from microplastics have been identified as an important toxicity pathway in the aquatic environment. However, currently, little is known about the effects of such additives on the soil environment. In this study on nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans), we adopted an ecotoxicological approach to assess the potential effects of 13 different microplastics (0.001–1% of soil dry weight) with different characteristics and extractable additives. We found that poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) fragments and polyacrylicnitrile (PAN) fibers show the highest toxicity, while high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), and polystyrene (PS) fragments induced relatively less adverse effects on nematodes. In addition, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) induced no toxicity within our test concentration range for the acute period. Acute toxicity was mainly attributed to the extractable additives: when the additives were extracted, the toxic effects of each microplastic disappeared in the acute soil toxicity test. The harmful effects of the LDPE films and PAN fibers increased when the microplastics were maintained in the soil for a long-term period with frequent wet–dry cycles. We here provide clear evidence that microplastic toxicity in the soil is highly related to extractable additives. Our results suggest that future experiments consider extractable additives as key explanatory variables.