Quantcast
Oceans
A fisherman sorts great scallops off the French coast. These scallops can absorb billions of microplastics within six hours, a study has found. DAMIEN MEYER / AFP / Getty Images

Scallops Absorb Billions of Microplastics in Just 6 Hours

One of the biggest concerns surrounding the proliferation of microplastics in the world's oceans is how they might move up the food web from smaller to larger marine life, eventually ending up in our stomachs.


Now, a first-of-its-kind study has shown just how quickly the tiny particles can accumulate in the bodies of shellfish under current levels of marine plastic pollution. The answer? Billions in just six hours.

Researchers led by a team at the University of Plymouth exposed the commonly sold great scallop (Pecten maximus) in the laboratory to concentrations of plastic nanoparticles equivalent to those found in the marine environment. After six hours, billions of 250 nanometer (nm) particles had spread through the scallops' intestines, while even more tiny 20 nm particles had lodge themselves in the mollusks' other organs including their kidneys, gills and muscles.

"The results of the study show for the first time that nanoparticles can be rapidly taken up by a marine organism, and that in just a few hours they become distributed across most of the major organs," research leader Dr. Maya Al Sid Cheikh of the University of Plymouth said in a press release.

The study, which was published Nov. 20 in Environmental Science & Technology, was part of RealRiskNano, a project led by the University of Plymouth and Heriot-Watt University and funded by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to determine the real risk posed by microplastics in the marine environment.

The latest study was groundbreaking for its methods also. Researchers exposed the scallops to nanopolystyrene that had been radio labeled with carbon. This allowed the researchers to locate the plastic particles in the scallops after exposure. Further, it allowed them to determine how long the plastic pieces lasted in the scallops' system. The 20 nm particles took 14 days to disappear, whereas the 250 nm particles lasted 48 days.

"This is a ground-breaking study, in terms of both the scientific approach and the findings," Head of the University's International Marine Litter Research Unit Prof. Richard Thompson OBE said in the press release. "We only exposed the scallops to nanoparticles for a few hours and, despite them being transferred to clean conditions, traces were still present several weeks later. Understanding the dynamics of nanoparticle uptake and release, as well as their distribution in body tissues, is essential if we are to understand any potential effects on organisms."

The University of Plymouth has long been a leader in the study of microplastics. In fact, Thompson coined the term "microplastics" in a landmark 2004 paper. He was also part of a research team that just won two NERC 2018 Impact Awards for its work on the problem, the university reported Tuesday.

But Thompson isn't going to rest on his laurels. He is already planning how to build on the scallop study.

"A key next step will be to use this approach to guide research investigating any potential effects of nanoparticles and in particular to consider the consequences of longer term exposures," he said.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
In a recent expedition, Gaelin Rosenwaks found plastic in the Great Blue Hole in Belize. Lomingen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Inspiring Interview Urges You to Cut Plastic Consumption

2018 was the year for plastic pollution awareness. One good aspect of the plastic crisis is the fact that we can solve it. Getting involved with solutions is an easy way to have our voices heard globally.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Proterra is one of several companies manufacturing electric buses in California. Jeffrey D. Allred

Buses Are the Electric Vehicle Everyone Should Be Talking About. Here's Why.

By Adrian Martinez

Dean Florez is preparing for what he calls "one of the biggest votes I've ever taken" as an air regulator at an influential agency with national clout.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A river cleanup in Union County, New Jersey. Paige Bollman / CC BY 2.0

Want to Help Endangered Species? Here’s How to Take Action Locally

One of the questions people ask me most often is what they can do locally to help endangered species. Well, I recently appeared on the Green Divas podcast to talk about that very subject. We discussed the horror of lawns, the danger of cars, great ways to volunteer, and other efforts you can take to make your neck of the woods a little bit safer for rare plants and wildlife.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Southern Resident killer whale mother and her calf swimming. NOAA

Washington Gov. Proposes 'Herculean Effort' to Save 74 Remaining Southern Resident Orcas

With only 74 left in the wild, the Southern Resident orca population in Puget Sound needs help now more than ever. That's why on Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's office announced "an unprecedented investment" to help boost the population as well as the Chinook salmon they eat.

"We are undertaking a herculean effort to save these iconic creatures. It will take action at every level of the environment across our entire state," Inslee said in a news release. "We need to restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orcas, salmon and the quality of life for all Washingtonians."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Amber Lamoreaux / Pexels

Major UK Supermarket to Ban Glitter From Own-Brand Products

British supermarket Waitrose announced Friday that it will ban glitter from its own-brand products by Christmas 2020.

The upscale retailer said its labels, wrap, flowers, plants and other single-use items will either be glitter-free or use an environmentally friendly alternative.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Natural pine trees can liven up Christmas and the environment when they are replanted after. Cavan Images / Getty Images

5 Ways to Have a Green Christmas (and Help the Planet)

It's pretty common this time of year to hear the song White Christmas, but at EcoWatch we want folks to have a green Christmas. With a couple of tips, you can make sure your winter festivities have a smaller carbon footprint. Here are five ways you can have a more environmentally friendly holiday.

1. Give Green Gifts
Share your love of the planet by giving gifts that are good for the environment. Need ideas? The EcoWatch staff rounded up their favorite gifts, and USA Today highlights items such as iTunes gift cards, reusable straws, organic wine and non-toxic cosmetics in their story about purchasing green presents.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Kingborough Council

Tasmania Builds Road From Single-Use Plastics, Glass and Printer Toner

A local government in Tasmania found a clever way to recycle single-use plastics and other landfill-bound waste by building a new road.

The 500-meter (1,640-foot) stretch outside the city of Hobart is made of approximately 173,600 plastic bags and packaging, as well as 82,500 glass bottle equivalents diverted from landfill, the Kingborough council announced Tuesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Alchemy Goods / Bambaw / LuminAID

EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays

The holidays are coming and if you're stuck on what to give your eco-conscious friend or relative, we've got you covered. At EcoWatch, we're big fans of homemade presents, products that actually help the planet, and putting our dollars towards a good cause. This year, our staff has rounded up some of the best green gifts we've given and received, as well as the items on our wish list.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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