Microplastics emerge from broken down large pieces of plastic due to weathering (EPA 2020). The problem with microplastics is that it can withstand and persevere in the environment for extended amounts of time, only just breaking down into smaller particles unseen to the naked eye.
The size of microplastics allow them to easily travel through the food chain, impacting marine life as well the human diet. The reducing size of microplastics allow them to travel through the food chain (Isaac, Kandasubramaniam 2021). Due the small sizes of microplastics, they can escape the wastewater treatments, allowing them to be released directly in water resources (Isaac, Kandasubramaniam 2021). Microplastics impact the food chain as fish and sea birds consume the small particles impacting those who indulge in seafood. According to study published by Global Change Biology, “386 marine fish species have ingested plastic debris including 210 species of commercial importance.” (Savoca, McInturf, Hazen 2021). Ingestion by marine animals is the major pathway of plastic travel through the ecosystem (Savoca, McInturf, Hazen 2021). Fishery is a large economic business and a nutritional security to billions of people (Savoca, McInturf, Hazen 2021). The reason to be concerned about the consumption of microplastics by fish is that it has been found that at least 100 species that are set to be consumed by humans ingest this plastic debris (Savoca, McInturf, Hazen 2021).
Image from (Isaac, Kandasubramaniam 2021)
The main issues of microplastics in bodies of water are its persistence and ability to reside in the environment for very long periods of time. The plastic debris never disappears, it only breaks down into smaller and smaller particles called microplastics. It is shown again and again how microplastics have been contaminating the oceans and the freshwater biota. Fish and Seabirds digest these microplastics causing them to perish due to starvation/suffocation. Microplastics can also emit toxic pollutants in the tissue of the fish which further causes problems to humans who consume seafood as the effects of this are still largely unknown. If plastic continues to persist in the ecosystem there will only be more physical and chemical effects that threaten the health of surrounding environment.
Written by Hannah Shakir
Issac, M. N., & Kandasubramanian, B. (2021). Effect of microplastics in water and aquatic systems. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 28(16), 19544-19562. doi:10.1007/s11356-021-13184-2
Plastic pollution. (2020, November 06). Retrieved May 24, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/plastic-pollution
Savoca, M. S., McInturf, A. G., & Hazen, E. L. (2021). Plastic ingestion by marine fish is widespread and increasing. Global Change Biology, 27(10), 2188-2199. doi:10.1111/gcb.15533