Size-dependent chronic toxicity of fragmented polyethylene microplastics to Daphnia magna

Dahee An, Joorim Na, Jinyoung Song, Jinho Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Fragmented microplastics (MPs) are emerging contaminants in freshwater environments; however, long-term assessment of their toxicity remains limited. This study aimed to evaluate and compare the chronic toxicity (21 d) of synthesized polyethylene MP fragments and commercial polyethylene MP beads to Daphnia magna. Ingestion of small- and large-sized MP fragments (17.23 ± 3.43 and 34.43 ± 13.09 μm, respectively) by D. magna was significantly (p < 0.05) higher, by 8.3 and 5.2 times, respectively, than that of MP beads (39.54 ± 9.74 μm). The survival of D. magna exposed to small- and large-sized MP fragments (20 and 60%, respectively) was significantly (p < 0.05) lower than that of individuals exposed to MP beads (90%). In particular, small-sized MP fragments significantly (p < 0.05) reduced algal feeding (from 95% to 76%), body length (from 4.20 mm to 3.98 mm), and the number of offspring (from 109 to 74) in D. magna, when compared with MP beads, likely due to their longer retention time and greater interference in the digestive tract. These findings suggest that fragmentation of MPs into μm-scale particles can pose a significant ecological risk to aquatic organisms; moreover, further studies are required to identify the underlying toxicity mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129591
Publication statusPublished - 2021 May

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Daphnid
  • Feeding rate
  • Fragmentation
  • Microplastic
  • Mortality
  • Reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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