Why Plas­tics Are Harm­ful

What hap­pens when plas­tics end up in the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment?

Asian Diver (English) - - Man & Sea -

In a study funded un­der the Ma­rine Sci­ence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme of the Na­tional Re­search Foun­da­tion Sin­ga­pore (first pub­lished on­line in the jour­nal ACS Sus­tain­able Chem­istry & En­gi­neer­ing in March 2018), a team of sci­en­tists from the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore (NUS) found that plas­tic nanopar­ti­cles – tiny pieces of plas­tic less than one mi­crome­tre in size – are eas­ily in­gested by ma­rine or­gan­isms and ac­cu­mu­late in the or­gan­isms over time, po­ten­tially con­tam­i­nat­ing food chains, threat­en­ing food safety and pos­ing health risks. The NUS re­search team at the Trop­i­cal Ma­rine Sci­ence In­sti­tute (TMSI) used the acorn bar­na­cle Am­phibal­anus am­phitrite as the model or­gan­ism in its tests to demon­strate that nanoplas­tics in­gested dur­ing the lar­val stage are re­tained and ac­cu­mu­lated in­side the bod­ies of the bar­na­cle lar­vae un­til they reach adult­hood. The acorn bar­na­cles were used as test sub­jects be­cause their short life cy­cle and trans­par­ent bod­ies made it easy to trace and vi­su­alise the move­ment of nanoplas­tics in their bod­ies within a short span of time. Bar­na­cle lar­vae were in­cu­bated by the team with reg­u­lar feed and 100-nanome­tre sized plas­tics, tagged with green flu­o­res­cent tags in two dif­fer­ent treat­ments – “acute” and “chronic” Ac­cord­ing to Dr Neo Mei Lin from TMSI, be­cause the bar­na­cles are at the bot­tom of the food chain, the nanoplas­tics they con­sume are trans­ferred to the or­gan­isms that eat them. Plas­tics also ab­sorb pol­lu­tants and chem­i­cals from the wa­ter, and these tox­ins are there­fore trans­ferred to the or­gan­isms when they con­sume con­tam­i­nated plas­tics and can cause fur­ther dam­age to ma­rine ecosys­tems – and ul­ti­mately, hu­man health.

“Acute” treat­ment: Lar­vae so­lu­tion with 25 times more nanoplas­tics than ocean av­er­age for three hours Even with bar­na­cles’ waste re­moval, moult­ing and ex­cre­tion, the nanoplas­tics re­mained in their bod­ies through­out their growth un­til adult­hood

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