Ecological impact of water-soluble polymers
Water-soluble synthetic polymers (WSSPs) are found in many everyday products. What the consequences are when these plastics enter rivers, lakes and oceans is still largely unexplored. A team from the University of Bayreuth has now systematically investigated the effects on water fleas of the species Daphnia magna for the first time.
The polymers selected for testing significantly alter the body size and reproduction of the animals in some cases. The research, published in Science of The Total Environment, shows that water-soluble polymers could have consequences for biodiversity and food chains in aquatic ecosystems that should not be underestimated.
Textiles, paints, paper, adhesives, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are just a few examples of industrial products that contain water-soluble synthetic polymers (WSSPs). In addition, WSSPs are used in wastewater treatment and stormwater treatment.
Nevertheless, little is known about their concentrations in the environment. They are not visible here, unlike plastic waste and microplastic particles. However, the presence of WSSPs in rivers, lakes and other freshwater repositories has been demonstrated in various studies.