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Microplastics entering human food supplies in South Australian waters

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Canberra, April 20 (IANS) Microplastics are making their way into human food supplies in oceans around Australia, researchers have found.

In a study published recently in Science of the Total Environment, a team from Flinders University sampled microplastic levels on 10 beaches in South Australia (SA).

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They found variable concentrations of microplastics in blue mussels and water, warning that it means microplastics have found their way into human food supplies, including wild-caught and farmed fish and seafood in the Southern Ocean, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Our findings shed light on the urgent need to prevent microplastic pollution by working with the communities, industries and government to protect these fragile marine systems,” said Karen Burke da Silva, senior author from the university’s College of Science and Engineering.

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“Low to medium levels of microplastics measured in the common blue mussel, a filter feeder affected by ecosystem conditions, were measured to analyze the main kinds of pollution affecting the environment, and single-use plastic was the main offender.”

Microplastics are fragments of plastic smaller than five millimeters in length.

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Experts estimate that there are trillions of microplastics polluting the world’s oceans and waterways.

The Flinders University team found that mussel samples collected from near cities and towns had microplastic levels four times higher than those from remote areas.

Plastic types identified included polyamide (PA), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), acrylic resin, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and cellulose, suggesting synthetic and semi-synthetic particles from single-use, short-life cycle products, fabrics, ropes and cordage, according to the study.

“The areas examined include some biodiversity hotspots of global significance, including the breeding ground of the Great Cuttlefish in the Northern Spencer Gulf and marine ecosystems more diverse than the Great Barrier Reef (such as Coffin Bay), so cleanup and prevention measures are long overdue,” Burke da Silva said.

“Apart from the harvesting of blue mussels, we also need to consider the impact of microplastic particles entering other parts of the human food chain with microplastic pollution expected to increase in the future.”

–IANS

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