Plastic particles have been found in almost three quarters of fish living in the ocean depths in northwest Atlantic, one of the highest frequencies of microplastic in fish worldwide, according to a study.
Many had consumed multiple tiny pieces of plastic, with one spotted lanternfish, which is 4.5 cm long, found to have 13 particles in its stomach, according to the study carried out by scientists at the National University of Ireland Galway, published Tuesday in Frontiers in Marine Science.
Scientists examined 233 fish in a polluted area of the northwest Atlantic at depths of up to 600 meters and ranged in size from 3.5 cm to 59 cm.
They found that 73 percent had consumed plastic, “making it one of the highest reported frequencies of microplastic occurrence in fish world.”
The species examined provide an important food source for many large predators such as dolphins, seals and tuna as well as sea birds.
Microplastics commonly break down from larger plastic items entering oceans but also originate from waste water effluents carrying plastic fibers and micro beads from clothing and personal care products. Due to their low density, most of these microplastics float at the sea surface.
The authors of the study said the contamination could pose a threat to human health because it worked its way up the food chain.
They said that the fish also absorbed chemical pollutants that had either accumulated on the plastic while in the sea or been added to it during production.
The pollutants include polychlorinated biphenyls, which were used in flame retardants, paints and sealants.