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article imageInvestigation launched on the impact of microplastics

By Tim Sandle     Nov 26, 2016 in Environment
London - Microplastic particles are consumed by marine life as a result of human pollution. In turn, the particles may pose a health risk to humans. This concern is sufficient to trigger a research study.
The study into the potential impact of microplastics has been launched by the British government, according to a report in The Guardian. The focus will be on the microplastic particles found in shellfish and other marine animals.
Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment that are generally smaller than 1 milimeter (or 0.039 inches). Microplastics come from a range of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes. Some microplastics are manufactured to be of the tiny size (such as those added to some cosmetics products), whereas others are the product of the breakdown of larger plastics.
Many microplastics end up in water systems and pose a risk to marine life. Here they become ingested and then accumulate in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. This includes, in the coastal waters of areas like Australia, corals. Plastic has been found inside coral polyps, bound up with digestive tissue. The primary plastic pollutants were particles of polystyrene and polyethylene.
At the end of many food-chains are humans and the microplastics (together with man metal coatings) can then enter humans via the consumption of fish. Microplastics have been measured, through laboratory tests, in higher concentrations in sea food like shellfish and oysters
With the new British government-backed study, the chief medical officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies has indicated that microplastics will form a key part of a wider review of the health effects of pollution. The reason for the focus on microplastics is because there is little evidence available about the impact to human health of microplastics. It is known, however, that a high concentration of microplastics is hazardous to some forms of marine life.
The British government has already moved against microplastics in cosmetics, making an announcement in September 2016 that the use of the bead additives is to be banned. Microbeads are spheres of plastic added to help different products to 'clean.'
In related news, in September 2016 a British led expedition began a voyage to the Falkland Islands to study the effects of plastic pollution on tiny creatures in the depths of the seas. The aim to assess the spread of plastic pollution in the oceans.
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