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Microplastic hits marine life, enters human food

Microplastic hits marine life, enters human food

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09 Aug 2018 No comment 26 hits

PANAJI: Fish, large sea mammals and pelagic birds being traumatised and dying painful deaths after ingesting microplastics is no longer a story reported from faraway shores. The horror has struck closer to home, with studies showing high concentrations of microplastics laced with chemical pollutants in fish tissue at Keri and Galgibaga.





Years of reckless dumping of plastic waste has resulted in the creation of gigantic masses of the non-biodegradable material on the ocean floor.

Microplastics, which are derived from the consequent breakdown of larger plastic debris, are less than 5mm in length, facilitating their ingestion by marine species and, ultimately, by human beings at the end of the food chain.

“We have found samples of microplastics in fish, mussels, turtles, sea birds, etc,” senior scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Mahua Saha, said. The team had picked up samples from six beaches; Keri, Calangute and Vagator in north Goa, and Galgibaga, Colva and Mobor in south Goa.

Microplastics contain chemical pollutants, including those hazardous to animal and plant life. They also comprise plasticizers such as bisphenol-A, which are soluble not in water but in human fat.

With the presence of heavy metals in fish due to water pollution, the addition of toxic elements from plastic will likely make seafood even more dangerous to consume. In fact, scientists say plastic waste doesn’t appear to corrode easily in saline environments, but instead, gradually breaks down into smaller pieces due to solar radiation and other chemical processes, increasing its toxicity.

Pollution by microplastics is being viewed more seriously the world over than ever before due to its dangerous impact on human health, fish and other marine ecosystems. Accumulation of leachates in sand can affect organisms in benthic zones ecological regions at the lowest level of a water body which are consumed as food by larger fish.

The devastating effects of plastic pollution on marine mammals and sea birds have alarmed researchers. Videos on social media of a turtle with a straw lodged in its nose, or plastic items found in the entrails of dead seagulls, have moved many.

While the plastic waste surfacing along Goa’s shores may not yet seem startling, the volume of such refuse is bound to increase as the coastal state is part of the Indian Ocean gyre, an extensive system of circulating ocean currents. Lack of a database about the quantum of plastic sucked into the system from other countries and being pushed to Indian shores makes such an assessment difficult.

“This garbage patch (in the Indian ocean) has to be observed through a real-time monitoring system to ascertain how plastic is brought to the Goa coast,” senior principal scientist at the NIO, Arvind Kumar Saran, said.

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