Quantcast
Food

Are Microplastics in Your Salmon Filet?

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

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Women fetching water in India. Pixabay

India Suffers 'Worst Water Crisis in Its History'

India is facing its "worst-ever" water crisis, according to a report from a government think tank issued last week.

Around 200,000 Indians die each year due to lack of water access, the report finds, and demand will be twice as much as supply by 2030.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
daryl_mitchell / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Urban Gardening 101: How to Deal With Contaminated Soil

By Brian Barth

Urban soils are particularly prone to contamination. Fifty years ago, your yard could have belonged to a farmer, who, perhaps not knowing any better, disposed of old bottles of anti-freeze or contaminated diesel in a hole out behind the tractor garage. Or perhaps the remains of a fallen down outbuilding, long ago coated in lead-based paint, was buried on your property buy a lazy contractor when your subdivision was built.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
High-tide flooding in Miami, FL, a state that could lose more than 10 percent of its residential properties to chronic flooding by 2100. B137 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Sea Level Rise Could Put 2.4 MIllion U.S. Coastal Homes at Risk

More than 300,000 U.S. coastal homes could be uninhabitable due to sea level rise by 2045 if no meaningful action is taken to combat climate change, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) study published Monday found.

The study, Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods and the Implications for U.S. Coastal Real Estate, set out to calculate how many coastal properties in the lower 48 states would suffer from "chronic inundation," non-storm flooding that occurs 26 times a year or more, under different climate change scenarios.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate

NASA Climate Scientist Warned Us About Warming 30 Years Ago

Climate science marks a troubling anniversary this week: in June of 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen told Congress that global warming had already begun to affect the world and would only get worse.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Pixabay

4 Ways You Can Make a Difference on Climate

By Jaime Nack

"Where do I start?"

Whatever the forum, whatever the audience, it's always the first question I hear when I talk to people about sustainability and personal impact.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
Minnesota Senate Building solar array ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 10. MN Administration / CC BY 2.0

U.S. Sees Steady Solar Growth Despite Trump, But China Slashes Subsidies

By Andy Rowell

Donald Trump can't stop the sun from shining. Despite the climate denier's pro-fossil fuel agenda, and despite his tariffs on imported solar panels, the U.S. still installed more solar than any other source of energy in the first quarter of the year.

The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. climbed 13 percent in the first quarter, according to the trade body, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
frankieleon / CC BY 2.0

How a Minor Change to EPA Rules Could Slash Environmental Protection

By Joseph Aldy

Since the Reagan administration, federal agencies have been required to produce cost-benefit analyses of their major regulations. These assessments are designed to ensure that regulators are pursuing actions that make society better off.

In my experience working on the White House economic team in the Clinton and Obama administrations, I found cost-benefit analysis provides a solid foundation for understanding the impacts of regulatory proposals. It also generates thoughtful discussion of ways to design rules to maximize net benefits to the public.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
E. Kahl / National Park Service

America’s Most Obscure Desert Is in Alaska

By Michael Engelhard

Time slipping, a tabula rasa. Footprints erased, slopes advanced, ripples unsculpted. A whole world recast by whims of weather. Besides snowfields and foreshores, few landscapes appear so clean-cut and subtle. Here, emptiness is the main attraction.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!