Microbes and Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Marine Environment

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Marine pollution has increased reaching the entire marine environment, from the surface to the deepest sediment, and has become more concerning in the last 70 years. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a fraction of ocean waste that includes, among the others, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and plastic polymers. These chemicals have an extremely long half-life, and (bio)accumulate and damage the marine flora and fauna, and, ultimately, human health. Some organisms have evolved enzymes to attack POPs in the environment and transform them into biomass and CO2. Several microorganisms degrade many POPs in relatively short time. A wide variety of bacteria has been isolated with different techniques, and key catabolic enzymes used to degrade the most persistent oil hydrocarbon fractions have been identified. For plastic waste, there is less evidence of microbial degradation, but a few recent studies are revealing that a biodegradation potential exists for some of the most recalcitrant plastic polymers as well. The scientific community is focusing on microorganisms and their enzymes for POP uptake and removal from the environment, while searching novel biopolymers (also from microbiological origin) to substitute oil-derived plastics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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