Are we eating 'nanoplastics'?

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 1 February 2018

Scientists say that tiny plastic pieces, less than a billionth of a centimetre wide, can enter the food chain at all levels in rivers and oceans.

Mussels Dish

The research shows the significant problems that plastic can cause to the wildlife in our oceans and highlights the urgent need to act now to stop even more plastic getting into our oceans.

Dr Sue Kinsey,
MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer

The study, published in January, further reveals the extent of the plastic pollution in our seas, says MCS Senior Pollution Policy Officer, Dr Sue Kinsey: “The research shows the significant problems that plastic can cause to the wildlife in our oceans and highlights the urgent need to act now to stop even more plastic getting into our oceans.”

According to an article in the ‘I’ by Environment Correspondent, Tom Bawden, this research goes further than any other into how far plastic can travel along the food chain.

Plastic fragments stuck to algae at the bottom of the food chain and ended up, via a water flea and small fish, inside the study ecosystem’s top predator, a dark chub.

The research showed that nanoplastics penetrated the embryo walls of fish and were present in the yolk sac of hatched juveniles. This revealed that nanoplastics could easily be transferred through a food chain.

Nanoplastics were found in newly hatched fish where they had entered their livers leading to lethargy so the fish travelled over shorter distances.

“Our findings clearly show that plastic particles are easily transferred though the food chain. And they strongly point to the potential health risks of nanoplastics exposure,” said Professor Youn-Joo An of Konkuk University in Seoul.

The full research paper can be found in the journal Nature.

Do you want to help stop the plastic tide? We are currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Help us stop the plastic tide
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2017

Did you know?…

Around 40% of UK beach litter can be directly sourced to the public

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces

Litter has increased by 135% since 1994, with plastics increasing by a staggering 180%