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Marine ship coatings as a cause of microplastics

According to a recent study, larger amounts of microplastics are being introduced into the sea through the abrasion of ship hulls.

As a team of researchers led by Dr. Barbara Scholz-Böttcher from the Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Sea at the University of Oldenburg found in a recent study, paints and varnishes that come from ship hulls often leave microplastics in the sea. The study, the results of which were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, was designed to provide a first overview of microplastic distribution in the North Sea. In water samples taken near major shipping lanes in the German Bight, the researchers found mainly plastic particles derived from the binders of marine ship paintings. The scientists took plastic particles less than one millimeter in diameter from the samples and determined the chemical composition of the collected particles. Surprisingly, they found mainly PVC as well as so-called acrylates and polycarbonates. Packaging plastics, previously thought to be the main component of microplastics in the ocean, on the other hand, made up a much smaller proportion. "We had not expected such a distribution," says Scholz-Böttcher. Substances from packaging waste were found mainly near the coast, she says. Near major shipping routes, such as on the open North Sea or in the Elbe estuary, the majority of plastics found were those used as binders in acrylic paints, for example, says Scholz-Böttcher: "We assume that ships leave a kind of 'skid mark' in the water, which has a similar significance as a source of microplastics as tire abrasion from cars on land." The result suggests that significantly more microplastics are generated in the open ocean than previously suspected, he said. The team is currently conducting further studies in estuaries and sediments to further explore the pathway and impact of microplastics in the environment.

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  • Photo: © Pixabay / WorldInMyEyes

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