- Plastic pollution is a long-standing ubiquitous issue. Global use of plastics
is continuing to rise, and there is increasing interest in understanding the
prevalence and risk associated with exposure of wildlife to plastics, particularly
in the marine environment.
- In order to facilitate an assessment of ingestion of plastics in seabird
populations, we developed a minimally invasive tool that allows for detection of
exposure to plastics.
- Using a simple swabbing technique in which the waxy preen oil is
expressed from the uropygial gland of birds, we successfully tested for the
presence of three common plasticizers: dimethyl, dibutyl and diethylhexyl
phthalate [dimethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate and bis(2-ethylhexyl)-phthalate,
respectively]. These plasticizers are prevalent in the manufacturing of plastic
end-user items which often end up in the marine environment.
- Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and protocols to reduce
background contamination, we were confidently able to detect targeted
plasticizers at low levels.
- The method described has broad applicability for detecting plastics
exposure in wildlife at individual, population and species levels. Furthermore,
the approach can be readily modified as needed to survey for plastics exposure
in taxa other than seabirds.
- Applying the simple, minimally invasive approach we describe here is
particularly appealing for detecting plastics exposure at population and species
levels, it shows promise for quantification and it has no observed detrimental
impacts to wildlife.
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