Microplastics in the Caribbean

A new paper has just been accepted on the levels of microplastics on beaches of four islands of the Lesser Antilles (Anguilla, St. Barthélemy, St. Eustatius and St. Martin/Maarten). These islands are close to the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, which contains high levels of microplastics. On average 261 ± 6 microplastics/kg of dry sand were found, with a maximum of 620 ± 96 microplastics on Grandes Cayes, Saint Martin. The vast majority of these microplastics (>95%) were fibers. Levels of microplastics differed among islands, with significantly lower levels found in St. Eustatius compared to the other Islands. No difference in microplastic levels was found between windward and leeward beaches. Our research provides a detailed study on microplastics on beaches in the Lesser Antilles. These results are important in developing a deeper understanding of the extent of the microplastic challenge within the Caribbean region, a hotspot of biodiversity.

I will provide a link to the paper once available

New research: Impact of microplastics on three species

We recently published a paper on the impact of primary and secondary microplastics on three species of water fleas. The sensitivity of two temperate Cladoceran species, Daphnia magna and Daphnia pulex, and a smaller tropical species Ceriodaphnia dubia, to primary microplastics (PMP) and secondary (weathered) microplastics (SMP) was assessed. We also determined the influence of temperature as an additional stressor. Our results indicate that sensitivity to microplastics may differ between species for different types of microplastics, and could be drastically influenced by temperature albeit at high exposure concentrations.

The paper can be found here.

Microplastics on European Beaches

Outcomes EuropeWe have published the first results on microplastic contamination on European beaches. We found that every kilogram of sand on European beaches contained on average 250 fragments of microplastic. In some locations the number can be even higher, a spot in Iceland had 700 microplastics per kilogram, in Italy it was as high as 1,500 per kilogram.

We are currently working on a follow-up study on the amounts of plastic on beaches along the Dutch coast and in the Caribbean region.

In addition we are studying how they might impact organisms.

Click here for the press release and here for the publication For the press release see:



First results published

The first results of our Citizen Science project will be published later this month. In the publication we analysed levels of microplastics across Europe, using the samples provided by participants. As a sneak preview see the following picture with results:

Outcomes Europe

Thanks for sending us all the samples!!

New Publication: Citizen science project

We published a new paper on our citizen science project, and the work in the Netherlands and on the Lesser Antilles.

Figure 1

Figure showing sampling locations on project

Abstract: Microplastics (<5 mm) are contaminants of emerging global concern. They have received considerable attention in scientific research, resulting in an increased awareness of the issue among politicians and the general public. However, there has been significant variation in sampling and extraction procedures used to quantify microplastics levels. The difference in extraction procedures can especially impact study outcomes, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to directly compare results among studies. To address this, we recently developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for sampling microplastics on beaches. We are now assessing regional and global variations in beach microplastics using this standardized approach for 2 research projects. Our first project involves the general public through citizen science. Participants collect sand samples from beaches using a basic protocol, and we subsequently extract and quantify microplastics in a central laboratory using the SOP. Presently, we have 80+ samples from around the world and expect this number to further increase. Second, we are conducting 2, in-depth, regional case studies: one along the Dutch coast (close to major rivers, a known source of microplastic input into marine systems), and the other on the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean (in the proximity to a hotspot of plastics in the North Atlantic Ocean). In both projects, we use our new SOP to determine regional variation in microplastics, including differences in physicochemical characteristics such as size, shape, and polymer type. Our research will provide, for the first time, a systematic comparison on levels of microplastics on beaches at both a regional and global scale.

New Publication: Zebrafish and microplastics

We published new research on the uptake and effect of microplastics on zebrafish embryos and larvae. The main take home messages:

  • Zebrafish larvae exposed to PS particles had minimal biodistribution.
  • Internalized particles caused an immune response by activating the complement system.
  • Enriched toxicity pathways for lipid metabolism and oxidative stress were detected.
  • Our results can be used to develop Adverse Outcome Pathways for microplastics.


Figure showing uptake of polystyrene particles by neutrophils using fluorescence microscopy.