Global qualitative and quantitative distribution of micropollutants in the deep sea

by Caren L.S. Vilela, Taissa Lopes Damasceno, Torsten Thomas, Raquel Peixoto
Scientific paper DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2022.119414

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Environmental Pollution (2022)


Micropollutants (MPs) include a wide range of biological disruptors that can be toxic to wildlife and humans at very low concentrations (<1 μg/L). These mainly anthropogenic pollutants have been widely detected in different areas of the planet, including the deep sea, and have impacts on marine life. Because of this potential toxicity, the global distribution, quantity, incidence, and potential impacts of deep-sea MPs were investigated in a systematic review of the literature. The results showed that MPs have reached different zones of the ocean and are more frequently reported in the Northern Hemisphere, where higher concentrations are found. MPs are also concentrated in depths up to 3000 m, where they are also more frequently studied, but also extend deeper than 10,000 m. Potentially toxic metals (PTMs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDTs), organotins, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were identified as the most prevalent and widely distributed MPs at ≥200 m depth. PTMs are widely distributed in the deep sea in high concentrations; aluminum is the most prevalent up to 3000 m depth, followed by zinc and copper. PCBs, organotins, hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs), PAHs, and phenols were detected accumulated in both organisms and environmental samples above legislated thresholds or known toxicity levels. Our assessment indicated that the deep sea can be considered a sink for MPs.