Flakes of paint could be one of the most abundant type of microplastic particles in the ocean, new research has suggested.
Through a range of surveys conducted across the North Atlantic Ocean, scientists estimated that each cubic metre of seawater contained an average of 0.01 paint flakes.
This, they say, suggests the material is second only in terms of recorded abundance to microplastic fibres, which have an estimated concentration of about 0.16 particles per m3.
A detailed chemical analysis of some of the flakes, conducted on some of the particles gathered during the surveys, also revealed high quantities of copper, lead, iron and other elements.
This is because they are designed to have antifouling or anti-corrosive properties, with the researchers saying it could pose an additional environmental threat to both the ocean and many species living within it when they ingest the particles.
The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, was carried out by scientists from the University of Plymouth and the Marine Biological Association (MBA).