Impact of polyethylene microbeads on the floating freshwater plant duckweed Lemna minor

Kalčíková G, Žgajnar Gotvajn A, Kladnik A, Jemec A
[ site ] Environmental Pollution, 2017

Microplastics (MP), small plastic particles below 5 mm, have become one of the central concerns of environmental risk assessment. Microplastics are continuously being released into the aquatic environment either directly through consumer products or indirectly through fragmentation of larger plastic materials. The aim of our study was to investigate the effect of polyethylene microbeads from cosmetic products on duckweed (Lemna minor), a freshwater floating plant. The effects of microbeads from two exfoliating products on the specific leaf growth rate, the chlorophyll a and b content in the leaves, root number, root length and root cell viability were assessed. At the same time, water leachates from microbeads were also prepared to exclude the contribution of cosmetic ingredients on the measured impacts. Specific leaf growth rate and content of photosynthetic pigments in duckweed leaves were not affected by polyethylene microbeads, but these microbeads significantly affected the root growth by mechanical blocking. Sharp particles also reduced the viability of root cells, while the impact of microbeads with a smooth surface was neglected. It was concluded that microbeads from cosmetic products can also have negative impacts on floating plants in freshwater ecosystems.