PROJECT BIOaccumulation of toxic contaminants in biofilms exposed to microPLASTics in aquatic mesocosms. (BioPlast)


l'Agència de Gestió d'Ajuts Universitaris (AGAUR); Código: Beatriu de Pinós 2017 BP 00037.




Institut Català de Recerca de l'Aigua


Dr. Sara Rodríguez Mozaz


Dr. Natalia Ospina Alvarez


113.738,89 €

Key-Words: Emerging contaminants; microplastics, micropollutants, antibiotics, pharmaceutical compounds.

Emerging contaminants originate from a variety of product types including human pharmaceuticals, veterinary medicines, personal care products, nanomaterials (NMs), paints as well as pesticides from agricultural runoff. These compounds are spread in the environment and have been detected in water sources, underground waters and even in drinking water. Some ECs, such as the natural toxins and degradation products of man-made chemicals may also be formed within the natural environment by animals, plants and microbes. Among the emerging contaminants, it must be highlighted the presence of microplastics (MPLs), which can be defined as plastic particles with diameter <5 mm.

Although it is known that different properties of the microplastics (surface properties, particle size, aggregation and degradation) have a great influence on the capacity of adsorption and desorption of other pollutants from the water column and that also influence the toxicity of the particles, there is a lack of knowledge on the characterization of microplastics under environmental conditions and the systematically adsorption/desorption capacity of different plastics according to their polymer composition.

In this context, BioPlast will enhance the knowledge about the cycle of emerging contaminants – and specifically MPLs- in the environment. The focus of the project is based on one principal research question: What is the influence of microplastics in the transference of toxic emerging contaminants to aquatic organisms?

To accomplish this fundamental question, three main key tasks will be addressed:

  • Bioaccumulation studies, aiming to determine the potential transfer of toxic and / or emerging contaminants to biofilm exposed to contaminated microplastics in aquatic systems under representative environmental conditions.
  • Metabolomics studies, aiming to investigate the mechanisms and markers of toxicity of organic pollutants and microplastics in the biofilm of aquatic systems in controlled conditions of exposure emulating a low flow Mediterranean river.
  • Suspect Screening and Non-target Analysis, aiming to investigate the presence of metabolites and transformation products of target micropollutants in aquatic organisms, both in mesocosms and field studies.



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