Studies that evaluate the impact of microplastic particles (MPs) often apply particles of pristine material. However, MPs are affected by various abiotic and biotic processes in the environment that possibly modify their physical and chemical characteristics, which might then result in their altered toxic effect. This study evaluated the consequence of weathering on the release of toxic leachates from microplastics. MPs derived from six marine antifouling paints, end-of-life tires, and unplasticised PVC were exposed to UV-C radiation to simulate weathering. Non-weathered and weathered MPs were leached in algae growth medium for 72 h to demonstrate additive release under freshwater conditions. The model organism, green algae Raphidocelis subcapitata, was exposed to the resulting leachates of both non-weathered and weathered MPs. The results of the growth inhibition tests showed that the leachates of weathered microparticles were more toxic than of the non-weathered material, which was reflected in their lower median effect concentration (EC50 ) values. Chemical analysis of the leachates revealed that the concentration of heavy metals was several times higher in the leachates of the weathered MPs compared to the non-weathered ones, which likely contributed to the increased toxicity. Our findings suggest including weathered microplastic particles in exposure studies due to their probably differing impact on biota from MPs of pristine materials.
- Raphidocelis subcapitata