Penguins’ plastic peril: Scientists warn of growing threat to endangered birds from toxic fibres polluting the ocean

Penguins’ plastic peril: Scientists warn of growing threat to endangered birds from toxic fibres polluting the ocean

SOURCE: Sunday Post DATE: February 10, 2020 SNIP: A study in Antarctic has found that over three quarters of the penguins surveyed in South Georgia had microfibres in their stomachs. Smaller than a baby’s fingernail, and often coated in toxic chemicals, they can lodge in a bird’s stomach, and as they break down into even smaller nanoparticles, wreak havoc throughout the body. Until recently it was believed that the Antarctic, protected by the Circumpolar Current flowing eastward around the uninhabited continent, was a haven from the menace. The island is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of King Penguins, with around 100,000 pairs, and was praised by Sir David Attenborough as one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. Standing over three feet tall, the birds raise just one chick every two years, and have a striking patch of orange-gold feathers on their neck. Lead researcher Camille Le Guen from St Andrews University, who spent over two months on the island, said: “The seas are suffering from climate change, and over-fishing. Plastic pollution is an added and growing threat. “The Southern Ocean was supposed to be the cleanest ocean in the world – but maybe this is not such an isolated place after all. “The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is like a semi-barrier for microfibres, but once they manage to get in, they are stuck because of that current and then they will accumulate.” She added: “We found 77% of birds had microfibres in their diet, birds with chicks and even non-breeding birds.” And almost 300m tonnes of plastic debris are estimated to be floating at sea surface...
The missing 99%: why can’t we find the vast majority of ocean plastic?

The missing 99%: why can’t we find the vast majority of ocean plastic?

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 31, 2019 SNIP: Every year, 8m tons of plastic enters the ocean. Images of common household waste swirling in vast garbage patches in the open sea, or tangled up with whales and seabirds, have turned plastic pollution into one of the most popular environmental issues in the world. But for at least a decade, the biggest question among scientists who study marine plastic hasn’t been why plastic in the ocean is so abundant, but why it isn’t. What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. So where is the other 99% of ocean plastic? Unsettling answers have recently begun to emerge. What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is “less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “I often joke that being an ocean plastic scientist should be an easy job, because you can always find a bit wherever you look,” says Van Sebille. But, he adds, the reality is that our maps of the ocean essentially end at the surface, and solid numbers on how much plastic is in any one location are lacking. It is becoming apparent that plastic ends up in huge quantities in the deepest parts of the ocean, buried in sediment on the seafloor, and caught like clouds of dust deep in the water column. Perhaps most frighteningly, says Helge Niemann, a biogeochemist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea...
Milk? Sugar? Microplastics? Some tea bags found to shed billions of particles

Milk? Sugar? Microplastics? Some tea bags found to shed billions of particles

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 27, 2019 SNIP: Tea drinkers could be getting more than they bargained for in their brew, as a new study has found that a single plastic tea bag can shed billions of particles of microplastics. The researchers from McGill University in Canada have found that when plastic tea bags are steeped in a cup of almost boiling water (95C), the bag releases around 11.6bn microplastics and 3.1bn smaller nanoplastic particles into the cup. This amount is significantly higher than the estimated amount of microplastics particles consumed by a person in an entire year. According to research published earlier this year, the average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic annually and breathes in a similar quantity. The researchers tested four different types of plastic commercial tea bags from shops and cafés in Montreal, which were cut open, washed and then steeped in near-boiling water for five minutes before being analysed by electron microscopes and spectroscopy. They found that a single bag released more than 11.6bn microplastics, which was “several orders of magnitude higher than plastic loads previously reported in other foods”, according to the study, which was published in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic, which the researchers defined as ranging from 100nm to 5mm in size, which are mostly created by the disintegration of plastic litter. Researchers have found microplastics in the air, soil, rivers and the deepest oceans around the world, as well as in tap and bottled water, seafood and beer. Microplastics were also found in human stool samples for the first time...
This Shellfish Consumes Billions Of Tiny Plastic Pieces In A Matter Of Hours

This Shellfish Consumes Billions Of Tiny Plastic Pieces In A Matter Of Hours

SOURCE: Forbes.com DATE: December 12, 2018 SNIP: Nanoplastics are a class of incredibly small microplastics that can result from microplastic production and/or plastic degradation in the natural environment – often from ultraviolet light. To give you a sense of scale, one micrometer is 1,000 nanometers and one meter is 1 billion nanometers. Because of their incredibly small size, nanoplastics are a particularly nefarious source of environmental pollution that can be difficult to detect. As a result, many laboratory studies concerning nanoplastic pollution in the oceans often use higher concentrations of nanoplastics than what occurs in the natural environment. In a recent study, authors used a novel technique to trace nanoplastics occurring in environmentally realistic concentrations within a popular seafood item: a shellfish known as a scallop. After exposing the scallops to nanoparticles for six hours, the researchers used autoradiography to locate the nanoparticles within the scallops. They found billions of larger nanoparticles (250 nanometers in size) within the scallops’ intestines and smaller nanoparticles (20 nanometers in size) distributed across the scallops’ gills, muscles, and kidneys. According to Dr. Al Sid Cheikh, “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...