Are Micro Plastics Harbouring Deeper Issues?
By now we all know the problems micro-plastics are causing in relation to the health of our seas, yet maybe we aren't so aware of the links between pathogens (germs) and plastics.
Recent research set out to identify how plastics, particularly micro-plastics, can create a new way for pathogens to travel across large distances - even once discarded in the Ocean. It has now been shown that the increase in micro-plastics in this environment has enabled pathogens to reach areas previously out of reach.
Testing also found significant numbers of parasites were clinging to the micro-plastic, and these numbers were increasing over time. Many parasites are actually binding to the sticky biofilms and, gram for gram, plastic had two to three times more parasites than seawater...!
Plastics that sink will then concentrate pathogens on the sea bottom where filter-feeding animals like clams, mussels, oysters and other shellfish are constantly hoovering up these pathogen-loaded, micro-plastic parcels. Typically they should be able to distinguish the difference between these parcels and their usual food, however the sticky biofilm layer acts as a camouflage for the synthetic plastics in seawater. This leads to animals that typically eat dead organic material to be ingesting the micro-plastic instead.
So why is this so important to humans? Well firstly, the germs that make their way into sea life may well be being ingested by us as we consume filtration shellfish. Anecdotally, I have recently developed an allergic reaction to filtration shellfish. Not crab, prawn or lobster but clams and mussels. I do wonder if instead of the mussels themselves, which I have eaten all my life, could it actually be the new bacteria inside them?
So these germs could potentially be hitching a ride on micro-plastics, some falling to the sea bed where they are inadvertently hoovered up by filtration shellfish may well end up straight on our plates!
The plastic waste building in our seas is concerning not only for the environment, but also for public health reasons. At FOSH we believe that EVERYONE and ANYONE can make a difference and it's the small differences that add up in the end. Using one of our reusable water bottles is just one of many small things that you can do to proactively take a stand against the plastic epidemic.
Let's do it together.