Quantcast

Are Microplastics in Your Salmon Filet?

Food

Want some microplastic with your salmon dinner?

Probably not. But since the plastic is so tiny, you might not even know it’s there. That could be a problem, since microplastics contain concentrated pollutants.

Salmon are not the only wildlife eating plastic. Researchers have found plastic in whales, mussels and oysters.

How does this happen?

It starts with the billions of tiny plastic particles that are getting into every ocean on the planet, even those far from where people live, like the Arctic. Plastic is not biodegradable, but it does break down into little pieces—pieces that fish often mistake for food.

A lot of plastic garbage inevitably ends up in the oceans; the accumulation of billions of tons of plastic trash in what are known as gyres has been well documented. Plastic bottles, bottle caps, jugs, toys and even furniture pieces get washed into the oceans. But these aren’t the only source of oceanic plastic trash. Facewash, toothpaste and other consumer products may contain plastic microbeads. The beads provide scrubbing power, but when they get washed down the drain, they’re too tiny to be filtered out by water treatment plants. They end up in rivers, lakes, streams and yes, the ocean, where they will float for years and years, maybe until sea creatures eat them.

Unfortunately, you as a consumer would have no idea if the salmon you buy in the store has consumed plastic. But chances are, it has, either by mistaking it for food and eating it directly, or by feeding on zooplankton that have eaten the plastic.

While there’s not yet much research on how much plastic we’re ingesting from our food, a study co-authored by Dr. Peter Ross, an ocean pollution researcher at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Science Center, reports that salmon young and old may be consuming enough microplastic to kill them.

“These particles could pose a serious risk of physical harm to the marine animals that consume them, potentially blocking their gut or leaching chemicals into their bodies,” Ross told the Burnaby News Leader.

Those chemicals come from other pollutants in the water. Microplastic is actually very absorbent and picks up the chemicals it is floating in. So it’s not just the plastic a fish is eating, but all of the contaminants in that plastic as well. That goes for us, too, if we eat a fish that’s eaten plastic particles.

“Micropolastics—microscopic particles of plastic debris—are of increasing concern because of their widespread presence in the oceans and the potential physical and toxicological risks they pose to organisms,” reported researchers at the Sea Education Association at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Salmon are not the only wildlife eating plastic. Researchers have found plastic in whales, mussels and oysters. Since 2012, scientists from the Marine & Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill, Maine have been monitoring plastics and microplastics in waters around the state. They found an average of 27 plastic fragments in every liter of seawater from Blue Hill Bay, reported the Bangor Daily News. “Oysters had the largest number of microplastic fragments, averaging 177 pieces per oyster.”

What Can You Do?

Stop using products that contain plastic microbeads

Read the label before you buy. Skip products that include “microbeads,” polyethylene, or polypropylene in their ingredients list. Replace scrubbing body washes with a sponge or wash cloth. They’re reusable and will save you money, as well as be better for you and the planet.

Use reusable bags and containers, not throwaways

Think about all the plastic grocery bags, take-out food containers and other plastic packaging you use. How much can you reduce your own plastic consumption by using reusables? Get some great ideas from Beth Terry at My Plastic Free Life.

Promote plastic take-back programs for plastics that are currently not recyclable

Manufacturers of plastic products should be responsible for taking them back to prevent them from getting loose in the environment. Computer manufacturers reclaim their electronics. Why can’t plastic manufacturers do the same?

Encourage governments to ban the sale of products that contain microbeads

Several states are in the process of considering bans, but more need to take up the cause.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Farmed Salmon Rejected Over Huge Spike in Antibiotic Use Due to Bacterial Outbreak

Tips for Avoiding BPA in Canned Food

4 Best Places to Buy Your Seafood

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Elva Etienne / Moment / Getty Images

By Ketura Persellin

Gift-giving is filled with minefields, but the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) got your back, so you don't need to worry about inadvertently giving family members presents laden with toxic chemicals. With that in mind, here are our suggestions for gifts to give your family this season.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Cheri Bantilan MS, RD, CD

Garlic is an ingredient that provides great flavor to dishes and can be found in most kitchens across the globe.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Claire O'Connor

Agriculture is on the front lines of climate change. Whether it's the a seven-year drought drying up fields in California, the devastating Midwest flooding in 2019, or hurricane after hurricane hitting the Eastern Shore, agriculture and rural communities are already feeling the effects of a changing climate. Scientists expect climate change to make these extreme weather events both more frequent and more intense in coming years.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Echinacea is a group of flowering plants that belong to the daisy family, along with plants like sunflowers, chicory, chamomile, and chrysanthemums.

Read More Show Less
One of the 25 new Long Beach Transit hybrid gasoline-electric buses on April 23, 2009. Jeff Gritchen / Digital First Media / Orange County Register / Getty Images

In Long Beach, California, some electric buses can charge along their route without cords or wires.

When a bus reaches the Pine Avenue station, it parks over a special charging pad. While passengers get on and off, the charger transfers energy to a receiver on the bottom of the bus.

Read More Show Less