Polystyrene Spherules in Coastal Waters

Science  17 Nov 1972:
Vol. 178, Issue 4062, pp. 749-750
DOI: 10.1126/science.178.4062.749


Polystyrene spherules averaging 0.5 millimeter in diameter (range 0.1 to 2 millimeters) are abundant in the coastal waters of southern New England. Two types are present, a crystalline (clear) form and a white, opaque form with pigmentation resulting from a diene rubber. The spherules have bacteria on their surfaces and contain polychlorinated biphenyls, apparently absorbed from ambient seawater, in a concentration of 5 parts per million. White, opaque spherules are selectively consumed by 8 species of fish out of 14 species examined, and a chaetognath. Ingestion of the plastic may lead to intestinal blockage in smaller fish.