A group of researchers from the University of California’s Davis School of Veterinary Medicine sampled nearly three dozen species of fish from several local supermarkets in California and Indonesia and found unusually high amounts of plastic debris in the animals’ guts.
Scientists are now concerned that oceanic plastic pollution may compromise food safety as more and more plastic enters our food supply.
During their study, Chelsea Rochman and her fellow researchers analyzed 152 fish from a 33 species purchased at local fish markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and Princeton and Half Moon Bay, in California. The fish and shellfish were harvest by local fishermen.
The animals were taken to a lab where a necropsy was carefully conducted. The fish’s intestines were treated with chemical solutions to burn organic issue and reveal any plastic bits in their guts.
The Indonesian fish contained tiny plastic bits in the guts in 55 percent of sampled species, and 28 percent of individual specimens. The species that had the highest amount of plastic debris were herrings, shortfin scads and mackerels. Researchers found in one of the fish 21 plastic bits and textile fibers.
In California, 67 percent of sampled species had plastic in it. The highest levels of plastic were found in king salmon, anchovy, and rockfish. About 25 percent, of specimens were laden with plastic.
Indonesian fish had a lot of plastic debris, while the U.S. fish contained more textile fibers than plastic bits.
“I was very surprised to see such a difference in type of debris between locations,”
said Rochman in a recent interview.
The differences may reflect how the two countries manage their waste. In the U.S. plastic is recycled more than textile fiber so less of it reaches waterways and oceanic ecosystems, researchers argued. But in Indonesia, authoritites are not that interested in plastic management and you can see that from the fish’s guts in coastal areas.
The research team thinks that the large amunt of textile fibers detected in U.S. fish may be caused by washing machines that spew that debris directly into waterways. Plus, wastewater treatment facilities fail to filter out properly those tiny pieces of textile materials because of their tiny size. This is why you find many of the debris in marine life off the coasts of many U.S. states.
Yet study authors also said that fish is safe to eat as long as we stay away from their intestines. On the other hand, it is highly probable that some toxic plastic may also affect the flesh.
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