The study, published in Science of the Total Environment and carried out by the University of Plymouth and the Marine Biological Association (MBA), conducted several surveys across the North Atlantic Ocean and estimated through more than 3,600 collected samples that each cubic metre of seawater contained an average of 0.01 paint flakes. This finding suggests that paint flakes are the second largest type of microplastic particles found in the ocean after microplastic fibres which has a concentration of around 0.16 particles per cubic metre.
The study further estimated that some of the paint flakes also had high quantities of lead, iron as well as copper due to them having antifouling or anti-corrosive properties. The researchers argued that this could further pose a threat to the ocean and the species living in it if they ingest the particles.
“Paint particles have often been an overlooked component of marine microplastics but this study shows that they are relatively abundant in the ocean. The presence of toxic metals like lead and copper pose additional risks to wildlife,” said Dr Andrew Turner, the study’s lead author and associate professor in environmental sciences at the University of Plymouth.
Therefore, paint flakes can be considered the most abundant type of microplastic in the ocean after fibres. And this development needs closer scientific attention as the full effect of the metallic additives on the ocean and its species is not yet fully understood.
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Photography courtesy of Unsplash, graphical abstract found here.