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Combined ecotoxicological effects of pharmaceutics and microplastics from compostable/biodegradable plastics

Grant number: 24/00407-8
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): July 01, 2024
Effective date (End): June 30, 2025
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Oceanography - Biological Oceanography
Principal Investigator:Ítalo Braga de Castro
Grantee:Beatriz Barbosa Moreno
Supervisor: Cristiano Venicius de Matos Araujo
Host Institution: Instituto do Mar (IMar). Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP). Campus Baixada Santista. Santos , SP, Brazil
Research place: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Spain  
Associated to the scholarship:21/14639-0 - Assessment of greenwashing, degradation and toxicity of biodegradable plastics sold in Brazil, BP.DR


The aquatic environment faces increasing challenges due to the introduction of diverse pollutants, as pharmaceutical residues like antidepressants and microplastics, posing significant threats to aquatic life. Fluoxetine (FLU), a widely prescribed antidepressant, stands out among these pollutants, known for its prevalence and hydrophobic nature, potentially leading to adsorption in matrices such as sediments and plastic fragments. Microplastics (MPs), particularly those smaller than 5 mm, ubiquitously pervade aquatic environments, becoming vectors for various pollutants and posing direct or indirect threats to aquatic biota. Efforts to mitigate plastic pollution have led to the development of biodegradable and compostable polymers seeking to reduce environmental persistence. However, such alternative materials may also originate microplastics (BCMPs) able to transport pollutants, and their interaction with organisms remain understudied compared to traditional MPs. Recent studies have demonstrated the adsorption of FLU onto various aged MPs, raising concerns about the potential ecological impacts of these interactions. Ecotoxicological assessments, utilizing models like Daphnia magna in freshwater and Palaemon varians in saltwater environments, become crucial to comprehensively understand the impacts of FLU-contaminated BCMPs and traditional MPs on these organisms. Acute and chronic effects, especially on neurotoxicity and reproductive behavior, require a carefully evaluation in these assessments. The evaluation includes unforced exposure methods like the avoidance test using the heterogeneous multi-habitat assay system (HeMHAS), designed to simulate real-world scenarios and assess ecological risks. Biochemical responses, particularly alterations in acetylcholinesterase enzymes, enable the evaluation of neurotoxicity induced by contaminants in these organisms. This study aims to assess the ecotoxicological impacts of FLU-contaminated BCMPs and traditional MPs on freshwater and saltwater organisms. It seeks to discern adverse effects and potential differences in responses between BCMPs and traditional MPs, shedding light on the ecological risks posed by these emerging pollutants in aquatic ecosystems. Additionally, the proposal will contribute to transfer relevant technology used in assessment of environmental quality to Brazil through doctoral training.

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