The widespread occurrence and accumulation of plastic waste in the environment have become a growing global concern over the past decade. Currently, of particular concern are small plastic particles, generally smaller than 5 mm known as microplastics (MP) and nanoplastics (less than 1000 nm). Microplastics result from fragmentation of larger plastic litter (secondary MP) or directly from use of plastic particles (primary MP, e.g. production pellets, cosmetics). Mistaken for food MPs are ingested by a range of organisms such as fish, bivalves and crustaceans. The effect of NMP on organisms is still not well understood but can be of physical or chemical nature.

The central question of our research is how nano- and micro-plastics, isolated from commercially available products, such as cleaning products, textile, car tyre wear particles,  interact with selected test organisms.

Our models include:

  • terrestrial crustacean Porcellio scaber,
  • freshwater crustaceans Daphnia magna
  • marine crustacean Artemia salina,
  • freshwater plant Lemna minor.

Methods

Our recent focus is on terrestrial invertebrates as soil is one of the major sinks of MNPs. We are particularly interested in how the organism responds to prolonged exposure to MNPs. In this respect, we investigate the alterations of immune- processes in P. scaber upon exposure to MNPs. Read more here.

We also do basic research with standardised test organisms;

Jemec Kokalj, Anita, Kunej Urban, Skalar Tina. Screening study of four environmentally relevant microplastic pollutants : uptake and effects on Daphnia magna and Artemia franciscana. Chemosphere. [Print ed.]. 2018, vol. 208, str. 522-529. ISSN 0045-6535

Jemec Kokalj, Anita, Horvat Petra, Kunej Urban, Bele Marjan, Kržan Andrej. Uptake and effects of microplastic textile fibers on freshwater crustacean Daphnia magna. Environmental pollution. [Print ed.]. 2016, vol. 219, str. 201-209

microplastics-graphical-abstract

Equipment and instrumentation

Basic ecotoxicity and biochemical laboratory equipment is used.

Cooperation

Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the University of Ljubljana (dr. Andreja Žgajnar Gotvajn, dr. Gabriela Kalčíková, dr. Tina Skalar, dr. Gregor Marolt)

Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute (ZAG) (doc. dr. Andrijana Sever Škapin, dr. Luka Škrlep)

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; prof. Cornelis A. M. (Kees) van Gestel

Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, dr. Salla Selonen

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