Today’s oceans are full of plastic. This is mainly due to the use of plastics on land, which end up in the water via sewage and litter. However, this plastic is not the only culprit in the story. Studies have shown that antifouling on ships also has a direct impact on our marine fauna and flora.
The research took place in the German Bight, located in the North Sea at a water depth of 2.5 m. Research was conducted using (Py-GC/MS), a special method whereby specific and qualitative MP-data can be displayed on the mass of polymers or their clusters.
The study finally showed that there is an overpressure of MP along the coast due to packaging waste. Moreover, different compositions were found in central and estuarine areas. Here, “skid marks” from ships were found. These represent coating particles formed by abraded chlorinated rubber, acrylic-styrene and epoxide. These particles represent a large and relevant proportion of MP at sea.
Contrary to what is normally quoted, the ratio of 80% on land and 20% at sea for MPs. Paint coatings contribute as much as 80% of the particles present in the water.
It was found that the concentrations of antifouling were high in coastal areas, especially in the Elbe estuary. Also closer to the coastline there were elevated percentages present of polymers. There are many different polymers and binders used in coatings. The effect of microplastics on humans and the environment is not yet clear. Research into this is often complex, as microplastics are a diverse group of particles whose properties can also change due to weathering, biofilm formation and/or the binding of hydrophobic chemicals in the environment. The scientific literature describing the effects of microplastics on aquatic organisms is larger than that for human effects.
Uptake pathways through digestion or ventilation are often discussed, including the physical penetration of microplastic particles into cellular structures, leaching of chemical additives or adsorbed persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and consequences of bacterial or viral microbiota contamination associated with microplastic uptake. After ingestion, a number of effects at the individual level have been observed, including reduction in feeding activity, impaired growth and reproduction through cellular modifications, and oxidative stress.
The effects of microplastics on marine biota are increasingly being studied due to growing concerns about human health via trophic transfer. We argue that research into the cellular interactions with microplastics provides insight into their impact on the fitness of organisms and thus their ability to maintain their functional role in the ecosystem.
Since the consequences of antifouling can be immense, even to a degree that we cannot imagine today, something must change. There is no immediate solution; antifouling remains crucial in shipping. The pollution will therefore continue to increase. However, supporting technologies can extend the life of antifoulant paint so that its replacement can be postponed. This can drastically reduce pollution and limit the amount of fouling.
Ultrasonic sound is a proven phenomenon in the protection of antifouling. NDV Ultrasonic’s unique technology allows antifouling to remain effective for up to 5 years. The system uses artificial intelligence to transmit the most optimal frequencies to prevent algae, pox, and shells from always adhering to the underwater hull.