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Toxic chemicals from microplastic contamination infect seabirds.

A study reveals that toxic chemicals in microplastic contamination swallowed by seabirds can poison their livers and threaten their survival

  • Scientists fed several species of seabirds infused with plastic additives
  • He found that the chemicals were stored in the liver and fatty tissue of the animals.
  • Plastic additive levels were found up to 1,200 times higher than normal
  • Scientists have called these chemicals a ‘widespread and growing threat’

One study has found that toxic chemicals from microplastic contamination accumulate in the bodies of seabirds and are putting their survival at risk.

Tests in nature and in a laboratory revealed that plastic additives accumulate in the livers and fatty tissues of birds at extreme levels, up to 1,200 times the normal level.

Chemicals added to plastics include flame retardants and UV stabilizers, which are designed to make them more resistant and durable.

However, the presence of these chemicals in seabirds has been criticized by scientists, who describe plastic pollution as a “widespread and growing threat.”

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Chemicals added to plastics found in the liver and tissue of birds, flame retardants and UV stabilizers. They were infused in plastic granules and the scientists evaluated how chemicals traveled through their bodies (pictured). They found chemical levels up to 1,200 times the normal level

Chemicals added to plastics found in the liver and tissue of birds, flame retardants and UV stabilizers. They were infused in plastic granules and the scientists evaluated how chemicals traveled through their bodies (pictured). They found chemical levels up to 1,200 times the normal level

Research published in the magazine. Current biology from Hokkaido University in Japan predicts that 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic waste by 2050.

The researchers, led by Dr. Shouta Nakayama, write in the study: ‘Marine plastic wastes contain composite additives during manufacturing and chemicals absorbed from environmental seawater.

“The numerous toxic chemicals present and their adverse effects in those organisms that ingest plastics generate concern about individual health and impacts at the population level.”

Birds often get entangled in plastic or confuse it with food and eat it. In the image, a graphic image of a 2018 seagull that died after becoming entangled in a carrier on a barbed wire fence

Birds often get entangled in plastic or confuse it with food and eat it. In the image, a graphic image of a 2018 seagull that died after becoming entangled in a carrier on a barbed wire fence

Birds often get entangled in plastic or confuse it with food and eat it. In the image, a graphic image of a 2018 seagull that died after becoming entangled in a carrier on a barbed wire fence

The researchers fed plastic chicks to chicks of six different types of seabirds, including two species of albatrosses.

Between 1950 and 2010, seabird populations decreased by 70 percent.

Currently, almost half of the world’s species are experiencing a population decline, and 2 percent are classified as threatened worldwide, researchers say.

Seabirds, as well as many marine mammals, reptiles and fish, confuse litter on waterways with food.

After involuntarily eating the plastic, it wreaks havoc on their bodies.

Macropolution, large pieces of plastic, causes blockages and can envelop the internal organs of animals, causing injury, malnutrition and even death.

But the chemicals inside the plastic garbage also alter the entrails of the birds, according to the latest study.

What more research is needed to evaluate the spread and impact of microplastics?

The 2019 report of the World Health Organization ‘Microplastics in drinking water’ described numerous areas for future research that could shed light on how widespread the problem of microplastic contamination is, how it can affect human health and what can be done. do to prevent these particles from entering our water supplies

How widespread are microplastics?

The following research would clarify the presence of microplastics in sources of drinking water and fresh water:

  • More data on the presence of microplastics in drinking water is needed to adequately assess human exposure to drinking water.
  • Studies on the appearance of microplastics should use guaranteed quality methods to determine numbers, shapes, sizes and composition of the particles found. They must identify whether microplastics come from the freshwater environment or from the extraction, treatment, distribution or bottling of drinking water. Initially, this research should focus on drinking water that is considered to be at greater risk of particle contamination.
  • Drinking water studies would be useful complemented by better freshwater data that allow quantifying freshwater inflows and identifying the main sources. This may require the development of reliable methods to track origins and identify sources.
  • A set of standard methods is needed to sample and analyze microplastics in drinking water and fresh water.
  • There is a significant knowledge gap in the understanding of nanoplastics in the aquatic environment. A first step in addressing this gap is to develop standard methods for nanoplast sampling and analysis.

What are the health implications of microplastics?

Although water treatment can be effective in removing particles, there are limited data specific to microplastics. To support risk assessment and management options for human health, the following data gaps related to water treatment should be addressed:

  • More research is needed to understand the fate of microplastics through different wastewater and drinking water treatment processes (such as clarification and oxidation processes) in different operational circumstances, including optimal and suboptimal operation and the influence of the size of particle, shape and chemical composition. in the effectiveness of elimination.
  • There is a need to better understand the composition of particles before and after water treatment, even in distribution systems. The role of microplastic decomposition and abrasion in water treatment systems should be considered, as well as the microplastic contribution of the processes themselves.
  • More knowledge is needed to understand the presence and elimination of nanoplastic particles in water and wastewater treatment processes once standard methods for nanoplastics are available.
  • There is a need to better understand the relationships between turbidity (and particle count) and microplastic concentrations throughout the treatment processes.
  • Research is needed to understand the importance of the possible return of microplastics to the environment from sludge and other treatment waste streams.

To better understand the biofilms associated with microplastics and their importance, the following research could be carried out:

  • More studies could be conducted on the factors that influence the composition and potential specificity of biofilms associated with microplastics.
  • Studies could also consider the factors that influence the formation of biofilms on plastic surfaces, including microplastics, and how these factors vary for different plastic materials and which organisms most commonly bind to plastic surfaces in freshwater systems.
  • An investigation could be carried out to better understand the ability of microplastics to transport pathogenic bacteria over longer distances downstream, the degradation rate in freshwater systems and the relative abundance and transport capacity of microplastics in comparison with other particles
  • The research could consider the risk of horizontal transfer of antimicrobial resistance genes in plastispheric microorganisms compared to other biofilms, such as those found in WWTPs.

Can water treatment stop the entry of microplastics into our water supplies?

Although water treatment can be effective in removing particles, there are limited data specific to microplastics. To support risk assessment and management options for human health, the following data gaps related to water treatment should be addressed:

  • More research is needed to understand the fate of microplastics through different wastewater and drinking water treatment processes (such as clarification and oxidation processes) in different operational circumstances, including optimal and suboptimal operation and the influence of the size of particle, shape and chemical composition. in the effectiveness of elimination.
  • There is a need to better understand the composition of particles before and after water treatment, even in distribution systems. The role of microplastic decomposition and abrasion in water treatment systems should be considered, as well as the microplastic contribution of the processes themselves.
  • More knowledge is needed to understand the presence and elimination of nanoplastic particles in water and wastewater treatment processes once standard methods for nanoplastics are available.
  • There is a need to better understand the relationships between turbidity (and particle count) and microplastic concentrations throughout the treatment processes.
  • Research is needed to understand the importance of the possible return of microplastics to the environment from sludge and other treatment waste streams.

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