Plastic Additives in the Ocean: Use of a Comprehensive Dataset for Meta-Analysis and Method Development: Article No. 142172

Cara Megill, Katherine Shaw, Katrina Knauer, Meredith Seeley, Jennifer Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In excess of 13,000 chemicals are added to plastics (‘additives’) to improve performance, durability, and production of plastic products. They are categorized into numerous chemical classes including flame retardants, light stabilizers, antioxidants, and plasticizers. While research on plastic additives in the marine environment has increased over the past decade, there is a lack of methodological standardization. To direct future measurement of plastic additives, we compiled a first-of-its-kind dataset of literature assessing plastic additives in marine environments, delineated by sample type (plastic debris, seawater, sediment, biota). Using this dataset, we performed a meta-analysis to summarize the state of the science. Currently, our dataset includes 217 publications published between 1978 and May 2023. The majority of publications analyzed plastic additives in biota collected from Europe and Asia. Analyses concentrated on plasticizers, brominated flame retardants, and bisphenols. Common sample preparation techniques included Solvent - Agitation extraction for plastic, sediment, and biota samples, and Solid Phase Extraction for seawater samples with dichloromethane and solvent mixtures including dichloromethane as the organic extraction solvent. Finally, most analyses were performed utilizing gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. There are a variety of data gaps illuminated by this meta-analysis, most notably the small number of compounds that have been targeted for detection compared to the large number of additives used in plastic production. The provided dataset facilitates future investigation of trends in plastic additive concentration data in the marine environment (allowing for comparison to toxicity thresholds) and acts as a starting point for optimizing and harmonizing plastic additive analytical methods.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2800-89929


  • analytical methods
  • chemical additives
  • dataset
  • marine environment
  • meta-analysis
  • plastic debris


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