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Plastic additives in the ocean: Use of a comprehensive database for meta-analysis and method development



Cara Megill, Katherine Shaw, Katrina Knauer, Meredith Evans Seeley, Jennifer Lynch


The number of individual chemical additives used in plastic production is staggering, and they are categorized into a wide range of chemical classes including flame retardants, light stabilizers, antioxidants, plasticizers, and heat stabilizers. While in the last few years we have seen a plethora of reports on microplastics and plastic additives in the marine environment, there is a lack of cohesion and standardization in the field. To direct the future analysis of plastic additives, we compiled a first-of-its-kind comprehensive database of plastic additive concentrations measured in marine environments separated into four compartments (plastic debris, seawater, sediment, biota). Using this database, we performed a meta-analysis to summarize the state of the science. Currently, 218 studies have been entered, published between 1978 and 2023. The greatest number of publications analyzed samples in the biota compartment and collected samples from Europe and Asia. Analysis concentrated on plasticizers (phthalates, adipates, and others), brominated flame retardants, and bisphenols. In order to perform their analysis, publications in the plastic, sediment, and biota compartments performed Solvent - Heat/Pressure extraction, while the seawater compartment mainly utilized Solid Phase Extraction. Dichloromethane and mixtures of solvents with dichloromethane were utilized the most for solvent extraction. Finally, the majority of analysis was performed utilizing gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. The data gaps are numerous and vast, especially the small finite number of compounds that have been targeted for detection compared to the large number of compounds used in plastic production. This database can be mined to assess the selection of sampling and analytical methods used, investigate spatial and temporal trends for a particular chemical, and determine which samples exceed toxicity thresholds. This review will act as a launching point to select the best method parameters for analysis of plastic additives in the marine environment.


polymer, chemical additives, database


Megill, C. , Shaw, K. , Knauer, K. , Seeley, M. and Lynch, J. (2024), Plastic additives in the ocean: Use of a comprehensive database for meta-analysis and method development, Chemosphere, [online],, (Accessed June 17, 2024)


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Created April 27, 2024, Updated May 23, 2024