Madeleine Böckers – Molecular Mechanism of Estrogenic Xenobiotica

Molecular Mechanism of Estrogenic Xenobiotica


The continually growing amount of plastic waste in the oceans has become the focus of increasing interest. At the end of the 20th century captain Charles Moore first described the accumulations of plastic waste in the Ocean [1], known today as the Great Ocean Garbage Patches. The plastics accumulate in vortexes caused by ocean currents all over the world [2].

What are the consequences resulting from the longtime pollution of the oceans with plastic? What unavoidable impacts do we have to face not only for the marine environment but also for humans?

Reports about marine animals entangled in waste and dying of starvation with a stomach full of plastic pieces can be found in literature [3,4]. But it is not only the plastic item itself which has a negative impact on the environment. Due to UV radiation, salt water, and the movement of the ocean the plastic breaks down into particles with a size smaller than 0.5 mm [5]. This so called microplastic is ingested by all kinds of marine animals. From these microplastics toxic substances dissolve and accumulate in the tissue of the animals.

The long-term consequences of the released toxins are largely unknown. However, for zebrafish it was discovered that polycyclic aromatic hydrogens induce embryotoxic, teratogenic, and genotoxic effects [6]. Other toxins like perfluorinated carboxylic acids and sulfonates have been detected in black-footed albatross tissues [7]. Furthermore, the frequently used plasticizer bisphenol A is associated with estrogenic activity and acute toxicity to marine animals [8].

The question arises which effects the plastic derived toxins may have in the human body. Do we have to expect endocrine disruptions as well? Through the food chain humans frequently absorb these toxins. Research about the molecular mechanisms of plastic derived toxins in the human body has to be done to discover the consequences of the longtime pollution of our oceans with plastic.

Author: Madeleine Böckers



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[2] E. A. Howell et al. „On North Pacific circulation and associated marine debris concentration”. In: Mar Pollut Bull 65.1-3 (2012)

[3] L. C. Young et al. „Bringing Home the Trash: Do Colony-Based Differences in Foraging Distribution Lead to Increased Plastic Ingestion in Laysan Albatrosses?” In: PLOS one 4.10 (2009)

[4] H. S. Carson „The incidence of plastic ingestion by fishes: from the prey’s perspective”. In: Mar Pollut Bull 74.1 (2013)

[5] D. A. Cooper et al. „Effects on mechanical and chemical processes on the degradation of plastic beach debris on the island of Kauai, Hawaii”. In: Mar Pollut Bull 60.5 (2010)

[6] T. O. Sogbanmu et al. „Lagos lagoon sediment organic extracts and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons induce embryotoxic, teratogenic and genotoxic effects in Danio rerio (zebrafish) embryos“. In: Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 23.14 (2016)

[7] S. Chu et al. „Perfluoroalkyl sulfonates and carboxylic acids in liver, muscle and adipose tissues of black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) from Midway Island, North Pacific Ocean”. In: Chemosphere 138 (2015)

[8] J. H. Kang et al. „Human exposure to bisphenol A”. In: Toxicology 226.2-3 (2006)