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Toxicological effects of micronized tire crumb rubber on mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) and fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)

Abstract

Recent studies on the distribution of microplastics in the Charleston Harbor, SC, USA revealed that a large part of the microplastic particles that are found in the intertidal sediments are tire wear particles. These particles originate from the wear of tire treads on roadways, and wash into the estuary during rain events. The abundance of these particles has raised questions about potential toxicity to aquatic organisms that ingest these particles. The synthetic rubber in car tires consists of a large variety of chemicals, which can vary between manufacturers, but usually contains styrene-butadiene rubber, carbon black and zinc. To investigate the potential toxicity of tire wear particles, both mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus) and fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) were exposed to different concentrations of crumb rubber particles (38–355 µm) in a 7-day static renewal exposure. Dissection of the fish revealed that crumb rubber was ingested and accumulated in the intestinal tract. At the highest concentration tested (6 g/L) partial mortality was observed in the fathead minnow, which came close to the assumed LC50. To investigate if polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were leaching from the particles, bile fluorescence was measured, together with potential induction of cytochrome P450-1A through the ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) assay. Elevated levels of 2-, 4-, and 5-, ring structures representative of PAHs were detected in the bile of exposed animals. Bile fluorescence indicated that 4-ring PAH compounds were the most bioavailable from the crumb rubber particles. Induction of EROD activity was observed in exposed animals at environmentally relevant concentrations of the crumb rubber particles (<1–2 g/L), and this elevated EROD activity indicated that PAH compounds from the crumb rubber particles were being metabolized in both mummichogs and fathead minnow.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank John Smink for help with setting up and maintaining the fish exposure systems. Rachel Leads, Sarah Kell and John Weinstein (College of Charleston/The Citadel) provided aliquots of the sieved crumb rubber particles.

Funding

This study was funded by SC Sea Grant Consortium, award N468 (R/ER 46).

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Correspondence to Stephanie B. LaPlaca.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted (Clemson University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Animal Use Protocol 2015-067). This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

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LaPlaca, S.B., van den Hurk, P. Toxicological effects of micronized tire crumb rubber on mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) and fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). Ecotoxicology 29, 524–534 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-020-02210-7

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Keywords

  • Tyre/tire wear
  • PAHs
  • CYP1A
  • Bile fluorescence
  • Microplastics
  • Microrubber