Microplastics are widely used by British marine mammals, scientists say, and samples have been found in the animal studied in each study.
Research on 50 white creatures, including porpoises, dolphins, gray seals, and pygmy sperm whales, is the most extensive analysis of microplastics in both wild cetacean and seal digestive tract.
"It is shocking – but not surprising – that every animal has used microplastics," said the author of a study published in the journal "Scientific Reports" at Exeter University and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML).
The study found that nylon accounted for more than 60% of microplastics, with potential sources including fishing ropes and nets, microfiber clothing, and toothbrush bristles. Polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) and polyester were also widely used. In addition to accidental consumption, microplastics are absorbed indirectly when predators consume contaminated prey such as fish.
An average of 5.5 particles were found in the intestines of each animal, suggesting that they cross the digestive system or are being restored. "The low number of microplastics in the intestine at any time is not always related to the chemical burden in their body, because the effects are chronic and cumulative," said Nelm. "It is not yet clear how synthetic particles physically interact with the intestinal walls when they go through."
Head of Marine Plastic Research Group at PML Panel Dr. Penelope Lindeque has found microplastics in all levels of the food chain, ranging from small zooplankton to fish larvae, turtles and now marine mammals.
"It's cumbersome that plastic is everywhere – all animals are exposed to it, and they take it in their natural environment," she said. "The ocean is a microplastic soup and it will only get worse, so we need to reduce the amount of plastic waste that is now in our seas."
Long-lived species, such as dolphins and seals, are a good indicator of marine ecosystem health, but they are susceptible to the accumulation of contaminants such as toxins or plastics as key predators.
Lindeque said: “There is a risk that chemicals in plastic and chemicals adhering to microplastics, such as PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), can affect these animals. We are increasingly worried that microplastics can also be a vector for viruses and bacteria. ”
In general, 26 marine mammal species live or pass in British waters. 10 species of animals to be studied were found as a coastline from Cornwall to the Orkney Islands and died due to illness or injury, such as by-catches in fishing nets, interactions with vessels, or bottle-filled dolphin attacks.
Nelms was concerned that the effects of long-lasting plastic contamination could harm the health of British marine mammals: “They eat everything, but it will reach a fracture point and really affect their health. It is important that this basic research is carried out so that we can monitor how they adapt or do not adapt to the next changes. ”