Monday 11 February 2019

Microplastics found in every marine mammal surveyed in UK study

Stranded porpoises, dolphins and seals had average of 5.5 particles in their guts
Thu 31 Jan 2019 10.00 GMTLast modified on Thu 31 Jan 2019 18.55 GMT
Microplastics are being widely ingested by Britain’s marine mammals, scientists say, with samples found in every animal examined in a study.
The research on 50 stranded creatures including porpoises, dolphins, grey seals and a pygmy sperm whale is the most comprehensive analysis of microplastics in the digestive tracts of both wild cetaceans and seals.
“It’s shocking – but not surprising – that every animal had ingested microplastics,” said Sarah Nelms, of the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), lead author of the research published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The study found that nylon made up more than 60% of the microplastics, with possible sources including fishing rope and nets, clothing microfibres and toothbrush bristles. Polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) and polyester were also widely present. As well as accidental consumption, microplastics are ingested indirectly when predators consume contaminated prey such as fish.
On average, 5.5 particles were found in the guts of each animal, suggesting they pass through the digestive system, or are regurgitated. “The low number of microplastics in their gut at any one time doesn’t necessarily correlate to the chemical burden within their body because the exposure is chronic and cumulative,” said Nelms. “It’s also not yet understood how synthetic particles physically interact with the gut wall as they pass through.”

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