Nowhere to go! Microplastic abundances in freshwater fishes living near wastewater plants

Tatenda Dalu*, Nombuso N Themba, Farai Dondofema, Ross N Cuthbert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastic presence in aquatic environments is a major problem globally. This study quantified microplastic abundances in fish species across two systems in South Africa around wastewater treatment works. Fish (n=163) were examined for microplastic on gills and in gastrointestinal tracts. Microplastic levels were generally low during the cool–dry season (mean 11.0 – 34.0 particles per fish taxon), and high during the hot–wet season (mean 10.0 – 119.0 particles per fish taxon). The microplastic concentrations per fish were similar between these systems, with downstream of wastewater treatment plants having high microplastic abundances. Although benthopelagic feeders were dominant, pelagic feeders had high microplastic abundances (range 20–119 particles), followed by benthopelagic (range 10–110 particles) and demersal (22 particles) feeders. Multiple regression analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between fish standard length and total microplastic levels, which suggests fish consume more microplastics due to increased food demand as a result of growth.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104210
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Pharmacology
Early online date01 Jul 2023
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Jul 2023


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