Scientists investigating health risks of plastic microfibers in shellfish
A recent study has shown that a majority of the world’s tap water contains strands of microfibers. Though health risks are still unclear, the issue has spread into food supply, more specifically shellfish, which are now exhibiting plastic microfiber contamination.
A project out of Vancouver Island University has unearthed a plethora of plastics in oysters and clams that reside in the area. Peter Ross, director of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Pollution Research program, assisted in the project and found that while some of the microplastics came from other sources, an overwhelming majority were these microfibers.
Microfibers predominantly come from fabrics like nylon and polyester. As we wash these clothes, they degrade over time, which leads to microfibers washing out into the sea. There, tiny creatures called zooplankton feed on these fibers. Since zooplankton are far down the food chain, the plastic consumption ends up rising as you get up through the food chain.
While the amount of microfiber contamination is something to worry about, there still research needed to confirm its potential threat. Some research has shown that the fibers can help spread chemical pollutants and pathogens, however. Despite that, shellfish biologist Sarah Dudas, who led the Vancouver Island University project, says to not be overly concerned since microplastics are in just about everything now.