Manufacturers melt tiny pellets of resin and shape them into the foam, toys, and other products of our increasingly plastic-filled environment. However, during pellet manufacture and shipping, some pellets invariably escape into the environment. Tokyo researchers now report that toxic chemicals can glom onto these resins, increasing the pellets' potential to poison any fish or bird that mistakes them for food.
Over the past 30 years, pellets of plastic resin have become a common contaminant in marine waters, where they frequently end up in the digestive tracts of wildlife. Studies have shown that these pellets often host such toxic chemicals as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDE (a breakdown product of DDT), and nonylphenols (commercial wetting agents that are now known to mimic the hormone estrogen).
To pinpoint the contamination source, organic geochemist Hideshige Takada of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and his colleagues collected polypropylene-p