Research and characterization of fibrous microplastics and natural microfibers in pelagic and benthic fish species of commercial interest

Submitted: 24 November 2022
Accepted: 1 February 2023
Published: 8 March 2023
Abstract Views: 1720
PDF: 344
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The ingestion of synthetic microfibers, the most prevalent type of microplastics in marine environments, and natural fibers was assessed in Engraulis engrasicolus and Mullus barbatus, two commercially important fish species in the Mediterranean Sea. Microfibers were isolated from the fish gastrointestinal tract using a 10% potassium hydroxide solution. For the microfiber characterization, the evaluation of specific morphological features using a light microscope, coupled with the Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) analysis of a subsample of isolated particles, was applied. The preliminary results showed the occurrence of microfibers in 53 and 60% of European anchovy and Red mullet, respectively. A mean of 6.9 microfibers/individual was detected in anchovies, while on average Red mullet samples contained 9.2 microfibers/individual. The most common colors of fibers in both species were black, blue, and transparent. Visual characterization of fibers allowed the classification of 40% of the items as synthetic microfibers. FTIR spectroscopy confirmed the visual classification by fiber morphology. Microfibers were made of different typologies of polymers, represented by cellulose, cotton, and polyester. These findings confirm as the wide distribution of fibrous microplastics, and natural microfibers may impact both pelagic and deep-sea trophic webs. Despite the presence of microfibers in fish species poses a potential risk to human health, the literature is scarce regarding studies on the uptake by commercial marine fish mostly due to methodological issues. The visual characterization, corroborated by spectroscopic techniques, may be useful to differentiate synthetic and natural fibers, representing a fast and easy method to assess fibrous microplastic pollution in commercially important fish species.



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How to Cite

Santonicola S, Volgare M, Di Pace E, Mercogliano R, Cocca M, Raimo G, Colavita G. Research and characterization of fibrous microplastics and natural microfibers in pelagic and benthic fish species of commercial interest. Ital J Food Safety [Internet]. 2023 Mar. 8 [cited 2024 Jul. 23];12(1). Available from: