Plastic in the Food Chain
Despite the much-touted health benefits of fish, consumers may be getting more than just lean protein in their servings of seafood. Researchers have found that around a quarter of the fish in markets in Indonesia and California contained plastic or fibrous material in their gut. This study is one of the first to make a direct link between plastic and the food which end up on the plates of consumers.
We already know that eating fish comes with risks of ingesting metals like mercury and lead, or pesticides like DDT. Scientists don’t currently know whether or what amount of plastics in fish poses a threat to human safety. They do know, however, that plastics are associated with a cocktail of chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic, and some of which disrupt our hormone system. Once they enter the ocean, plastics can also become a sponge for other contaminants like pesticides and industrial chemicals.
According to PHY ORGS the researchers emphasize that the debris are found in the animals’ guts. That suggests people are likely to ingest the debris only if the animal is eaten whole, like sardines and anchovies. The team is still studying whether chemicals in the material can transfer into the meat.
The presence of tiny plastic particles, or microplastics, is a growing problem worldwide. A team of scientists estimated that eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans each year, and predicted that that number will increase over the next decade.
Reducing plastics in the ocean will require a concerted, multi-pronged effort and interventions might include banning plastic microbeads in personal care products, working with big plastic producers to search for alternative materials, or even possibly putting fiber filters on washing machines.