Effects of polyethylene microplastics and cadmium on freshwater animals: a modelling framework

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Zink, Lauren M.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Biological Sciences
The emerging field of microplastic-metal mixtures toxicity is riddled with contradictory conclusions relating to the uptake, accumulation, and toxicity of the mixture and each constituent. After initially setting out to fill knowledge gaps through several studies with a phylogenetically diverse set of animal models and exposure scenarios, I recognized that this work contradicted other studies in the field. This thesis draws on our developed understanding of metal behaviour and toxicity in an effort to resolve the confusion relating to microplastic-metal mixtures toxicity. Despite the well-established knowledge that water quality characteristics govern the behaviour of metals in freshwater systems, there has not been adequate water quality reporting in the field of microplastic-metal mixtures toxicity. To address the reality that providing a full suite of water quality characterization is not often feasible for each experiment, we created a model to predict which aspects of water quality primarily govern the association of cadmium and polyethylene, a representative microplastic. The model, combined with understanding the bioavailability of metal-microplastic complexes, provides insight into the hazards of metal toxicity in a given system. This model promotes the harmonization across research in the field which can then collectively be used in policy development to protect aquatic life.
metal-microplastic complexes , microplastic-metal mixture toxicity , freshwater systems , cadmium , polyethylene , microplastics , fresh water animals