UV stabilizers can foster early development of biofilms on freshwater microplastics

Abhrajyoti Tarafdar, Ja yun Lim, Jung Hwan Kwon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Interactions between microbes and microplastics are important as of emerging plastic loads in the global environment. Although diverse plastic additives are used in large amounts, there are very few studies on a quantitative comparison of plastisphere on plastics with different plastic additives. We studied the effects of two widely used UV stabilizers (benzotriazole-type UV-327 and benzophenone-type UV-531 were selected based on their persistence and toxicity) in low-density polyethylene (LDPE) on freshwater microbes. This is the first study on the sole effects of UV stabilizers used as plastic additives on freshwater in situ plastisphere biofilm development. Confocal laser scanning microscopy, assisted with proper differentiating fluorochromes and threshold-based 3D segmentation of data, was used to visualize and quantify biofilm. On the first week of biofilm growth, there was very little biovolume and a negligible amount of phototrophs on pristine LDPE contrasting other substrates. Biovolumes were significantly higher on LDPE with UV stabilizers (up to 159% higher than pristine LDPE), although the biomass was mostly dead due to toxicity (>100% higher dead biovolume than live biovolume in LDPE with UV stabilizers). After the fourth week, marginally higher biovolumes along with a revival of the biomass on LDPE with UV stabilizers were observed. The ability to induce microorganismic intracellular reactive oxygen species by UV stabilizers was detected, which may stimulate biofilm growth during the primary phase of biofilm development. Atomic force microscopy analysis denoted that LDPE with UV stabilizers exhibit considerably stronger adhesion force than pristine LDPE. These observations suggest that UV stabilizers can foster the early attachment of microbes to microplastics while killing the surface contacting layer. An alive upper layer of microbes can get developed on the dead biofilm without much disruption due to the toxicity of UV stabilizers. This occurrence can eventually boost the early development of biofilms on plastics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120444
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 15


  • Biofilm
  • LDPE
  • Oxidative stress
  • Plastisphere
  • Toxicity
  • UV-327
  • UV-531

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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