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Is crumb rubber a source for pollutants and harmful effects in the marine environment?

Halsband-Lenk, Claudia; Herzke, Dorte; Sørensen, Lisbet; Booth, Andy

Publication details

Event: Norwegian Environmental Toxicology Symposium (Svalbard)

Date: March 14th 2018 – March 16th 2018

In Norwegian coastal communities, rubber microplastic granules (≤ 5 mm in size) derived from discarded vehicle tires are used in large quantities on outdoor synthetic turf sports pitches. Through transport by waste water effluents and terrestrial runoff, these rubber particles are considered a significant source of MPs to the marine ecosystem. In the here presented interdisciplinary project we study the composition, degradation and environmental impacts of these rubber granules from locations in northern Norway and Svalbard. Their persistence and residence time in the Arctic marine environment is unknown. These rubber particles pose a potential health risk for arctic wild life through direct ingestion, especially at the base of the marine food chain, but may also provide an exposure route for toxic additive chemicals present in tires to marine organisms. Furthermore, the rubber particles may act as a vector for other persistent organic and heavy metal pollutants already present in the marine environment. Arctic marine environments present special abiotic conditions for the degradation of these particles, with cold water temperatures and long periods with unlimited sunlight. During a 12 months period, rubber crumbs were placed out in the ocean in stainless steel containers and sub-sampled continuously for the measurement of persistent organic pollutants, metals and additives. Hydrophobic persistent organic pollutants such as PAHs, PCBs, DDTs, bisphenols, as well as metals were measured to establish the adsorption and leaching kinetics in seawater under in situ conditions. Samples were extracted using ultrasound and nonpolar solvents, followed by GPC and SPE clean up. Chemical analyses using pyroGC/MS, GC/MS/MS and LC/HRMS were done in the laboratories of NILU, Tromsø and SINTEF, Trondheim. Exposure experiments with rubber leachate were also conducted and high mortality rates were found for different marine zooplankton species.