Microscopic plastic contaminating world's oceans

Over fishing, global warming, water contamination - at a time when the situation at sea seems it could hardly get worse, scientists have gone and discovered a whole new threat to marine habitats - microscopic fragments and fibres of plastic.

Microscopic plastic particles have been found in marine habitats

Microscopic plastic particles have been found in marine habitats

New research, published in the latest edition of Science, carried out by scientists in the UK, has proved for the first time that oceans and shores are contaminated with man-made fibres, harming turtles, fish, seabirds and mammals.

The report 'Lost at Sea: Where is all the plastic?' says it is now common to find plastic fragments, from domestic and industrial products including discarded bottles and fishing nets, in marine habitats.

The research focused on samples taken from the Plymouth coastline, although the researchers at Plymouth and Southampton Universities think the situation is likely to be the same across the world.

Nylon, polyethylene, acrylic and other synthetic polymers were identified in the samples, although Dr Andrea Russell, who analysed the results told edie they were not sure where the pollution actually came from. She said the next part of the research was to find that out.

She added that the scientists thought the surface microscopic plastics, which are being ingested by wildlife, would actually contain within them more harmful particles which would be released when broken down.

"This would be even more dangerous for the species, so we will be investigating it in the next part of our study," she told edie.

Dr Richard Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Marine Ecology at the University of Plymouth and leader of the study said: "Given the durability of plastics and the disposable nature of many plastic items, this type of contamination is likely to increase. Our team, based in the School of Biological Sciences at Plymouth, is now working to identify the possible environmental consequences of this new form of contamination."

By Sorcha Clifford



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