Influence of microplastics on the toxicity of the pharmaceuticals procainamide and doxycycline on the marine microalgae Tetraselmis chuii.Aquat Toxicol. 2018 Apr; 197:143-152.AT
Microplastics and pharmaceuticals are considered ubiquitous and emergent pollutants of high concern but the knowledge on their effects on primary producers is still limited, especially those caused by mixtures. Thus, the goal of the present study was to investigate if the presence of microplastics (1-5 μm diameter) influences the toxicity of the pharmaceuticals procainamide and doxycycline to the marine microalga Tetraselmis chuii. Bioassays (96 h) to investigate the toxicity of those substances individually and in mixtures (i.e. microplastics-procainamide mixtures and microplastics-doxycycline mixtures) were carried out. Effect criteria were the average specific growth rate (growth rate) and chlorophyll a concentration (chlorophyll). EC10, EC20 and EC50 were determined. Microplastics alone had no significant effects on growth rate up to 41.5 mg/l, whereas chlorophyll was significantly reduced at 0.9 and 2.1 mg/l of microplastics, but not at higher concentrations. The 96 h EC50 (growth rate and chlorophyll, respectively) determined for the other bioassays were: 104 and 143 mg/l for procainamide alone; 125 and 31 mg/l for procainamide in the presence of microplastics; 22 and 14 mg/l for doxycycline alone; 11 and 7 mg/l for doxycycline in the presence of microplastics. Significant differences (p < 0.001) between the toxicity curves of each pharmaceutical alone and in mixture with microplastics were found for procainamide (chlorophyll), and doxycycline (both parameters). Thus, both pharmaceuticals were toxic to T. chuii in the low ppm range, and microplastics-pharmaceutical mixtures were more toxic than the pharmaceuticals alone. Very high decreases of doxycycline concentrations in test media were found, indicating degradation of the antibiotic. Thus, although the biological results are expressed in relation to doxycycline concentration, the effects were likely caused by a mixture of the parental compound and its degradation products. The concentrations of microplastics and pharmaceuticals tested (low ppm range) are higher than those expected to be found in waters of the most part of marine ecosystems (ppt or ppb ranges). However, considering the widespread contamination by microplastics and pharmaceuticals, the concentrations already found in waters, sediments and/or organism of heavily polluted areas, the long-term exposure (over generations) of wild populations to such substances in polluted ecosystems and the possibilities of bioaccumulation and toxicological interactions, these findings are of concern and further research on microplastics-pharmaceuticals toxicological interactions is needed.