Graduate Research and Discovery Symposium (GRADS)

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Recent studies on the distribution of microplastics in the Charleston Harbor, SC, revealed that a large part of the microplastic particles that are found in the intertidal sediments are tire wear particles. These particles originate from the wear of tire treads on roadways, and wash into the estuary during rain events. The abundance of these particles has raised questions about potential toxicity to aquatic organisms that may ingest these particles. The synthetic rubber in car tires consist of a large variety of chemicals, which can vary between brands, but usually contains styrene-butadiene rubber, carbon black and zinc. To investigate the potential toxicity of tire wear particles, both fathead minnow and Atlantic killifish were exposed to different concentrations of tire crumb particles (38 – 355 µm) in a 7-day exposure. Dissection of the fish revealed that particles were ingested and accumulated in the intestinal tract. At the highest concentration tested (6000 mg/l) we observed partial mortality in the fathead minnow, which is therefore close to the LC50. To investigate if polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons were leaching from the particles, bile fluorescence was measured, together with potential induction of cytochrome P450-1A through the EROD assay. Elevated levels of 2-, 4-, and 5-, ring structures resembling polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons were detected in the bile of exposed animals. Induction of CYP1A was also observed in exposed animals at environmentally relevant concentrations (<1-2 g/l).