you're reading...


Fish don’t need to lineup at Starbucks to get their morning coffee – they’re swimming in it!

Article: Karsten Nödler , Dimitra Voutsa, Tobias Licha. Polar organic micropollutants in the coastal environment of different marine systems. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 85 (2014) 50–59. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.06.024



Micropollutants are those compounds usually at low concentration levels in the environment (ng/L or µg/L). They are toxic, bioaccumulative and hard to degrade. They can pose risks to the local ecosystem or even human health.

We are not unfamiliar with these substances; they exist everywhere in our daily life.  For example, we often use β-blockers as antihypertensives, antibiotics for fighting with bacteria and herbicides for gardening, just to name a few.

These compounds are named as pharmaceuticals, corrosion inhibitors, biocides or stimulants. They are some of the most frequently detected micropollutants in the aquatic environment. They enter the marine environment via many sources such as rivers, atmosphere, direct discharge of raw and treated wastewater, shipping, harbor and port activities, offshore oil exploration, and aquaculture.


Methods and Results

In order to better understand the distribution of these micropollutants, 153 water samples were taken from shorelines of the Baltic Sea (Germany), Northen Adriatic Sea (Italy). Aegean Sea and Dardanelles (Greece & Turkey), San Francisco Bay (USA), Pacific Ocean (from Muir Beach to Monterey Bay; USA), Mediterranean Sea (Israel), and Balearic Sea (Spain) during 2009 to 2011. 0.5 L of water for each site were collected in glass bottles and treated by solid phase extraction using cartridges. Then, high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry was used for analysis.  The results of the analysis were as follows.

Among all the compounds detected, caffeine (It is the magic in the coffee that keeps you awake and it belongs to stimulants.) and selected metabolites (paraxanthine, theobromine) were the most abundant (as shown in Fig 1). It is interesting to see that caffeine is present at high concentrations in raw sewage while it is efficiently removed by wastewater treatment plants. Therefore, a high concentration of caffeine detected in the marine environment can be a good indicator of raw sewage presence. In addition, a clear link between raw sewage and algal blooms (due to elevated nutrient input) was reported, and a modest correlation with fecal coliforms was found in Canada. Thus, caffeine concentrations have the potential to be used in monitoring the health risk of coastal water.

Fig 1. Detection frequencies  of compounds with df > 10% in all samples (n = 153). Only the compounds analyzed in all samples were considered in the calculation.

Fig 1. Detection frequencies (df) of compounds with df > 10% in all samples (n = 153). Only the compounds analyzed in all samples were considered in the calculation.

Caffeine and cocaine (another type of stimulants) metabolite benzoylecgonine can also be good indicators of tourism. During the tourist season, concentrations of caffeine detected 16km off the coast of Venice—where they should be rather low—were comparable to levels within Venice. There were higher detection frequencies of benzoylecgonine within Venice as well.

1H-benzotriazole and tolyltriazole are widely used in detergents for dishwashers, deicing/anti-icing fluids and corrosion inhibitors and also had high detection frequencies. They were detected in ng/L level near shore and much diluted at 300km off shore. Toxicology studies show that exposure to just 10 µg/L of 1H-benzotriazole has noticeable effects on the expression levels of different genes in a marine fish species.

Atrazine is a herbicide banned by the EU in 2004, however ongoing contamination was indicated by water samples. In the U.S., atrazine is still applied (Sass and Colangero, 2006). Interestingly neither atrazine nor its metabolites desethylatrazine and desisopropylatrazine were detected in San Francisco Bay or the Pacific Ocean. This surprising result could be due to either the wrong sampling time with low herbicide application rate (or it has not been in catchment at all) or the dilution factor from tidal exchanges with the Pacific Ocean. Diuron is a biocide widely used in façade coatings and antifouling paints. It was detected exclusively in harbor areas or marinas. One important pathway is through direct release from ship hulls.

Of all the antibiotics, sulfamethoxazole is the mostly frequently detected; and erythromycin showed the highest concentration. Their concentrations were 13-61 ng/L and 217 ng/L, respectively. Of all the antihypensives, the β-blockers atenolol and metoprolol were most frequently detected. Other pharmaceutical residues, such as antiallergics (cetirizine and loratadine), NSAIDs (acetaminophen), psychoactive drugs (carbamazepine), lipid regulators clofibric acid and bezafibrate were also detected in this study.


Significance of the Study

It is important to monitor micropollutants in the marine environment because they may have adverse effects on aquatic life and eventually on human beings. Some of them, for example, pharmaceutical residues are designed to take effect at low level. Synergistic effects need to be studied to see how these substances act together to influence marine life, and humans under current concentrations.


No comments yet.

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com