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[Publication]: Microplastics with cadmium inhibit the growth of Vallisneria natans (Lour.) Hara rather than reduce cadmium toxicity

Associate Prof. Xinhou Zhang and Prof.Guoxiang Wang published a research paper in Chemosphere (2020, 128979)

Microplastics and heavy metals are discharged into a freshwater environment either directly or via surface runoff and are largely deposited in sediments, posing risks to aquatic organisms. Few studies have thus far been devoted to the interaction of microplastics and heavy metals in sediments. Whether microplastics can affect the toxicity and accumulation of heavy metals in submerged macrophytes remains unclear. We evaluated the effects of polyvinyl chloride microplastics (PVC-MPs) and cadmium (Cd) exposure levels (0, 5, 15, and 25 mg) on Vallisneria natans (Lour.) Hara grown in sediment in a microcosm experiment for 14 d. In this study, PVC-MPs decreased the fresh weights of V. natans in the absence of Cd and markedly reduced the fresh weights at 5 and 15 mg Cd exposure levels. Moreover, PVC-MPs substantially increased the malondialdehyde (MDA) content of V. natans leaves at a Cd exposure of 25 mg. However, the PVC-MPs neither reduced the Cd concentration nor independently increased the antioxidant enzyme activities of the plants. These findings indicate that microplastics can independently, or jointly with a Cd contaminant, inhibit the growth of submerged macrophytes rather than reduce Cd toxicity. To our knowledge, this study is the first to evaluate the effects of microplastics and Cd exposure in sediments on the growth and physiological traits of submerged macrophytes, which could provide important implications for the interaction and future risk assessment of microplastics and heavy metals in sediments of freshwater ecosystems.