Ongoing research by a Danish university department, DTU Aqua, into plastic found in the Danish marine environment, along with the inevitable consequences this may have on public health, is once against drawing attention to an uncomfortable truth lurking at the bottom of the sea.
The EU recognised the devastating effect of plastics on the marine environment by incorporating their presence as an indicator for ecosystem quality in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive back in 2010. But despite this, their effect on human health has been mostly ignored.
A magnet for toxins
According to DTU Aqua, microplastics may act as magnets for environmentally hazardous materials. Research by American scientist Chelsea Rochman, which was published in the prestigious magazine Nature at the end of 2013, showed that hydrophobic toxins – including DDT, flame retardants, and industrial chemicals – bind to microplastics released into the world's oceans.
“We see plastics everywhere and know that they have terrible consequences for large animals such as turtles and albatrosses," Jens T Christensen, a senior researcher from Aarhus University, told Ingeniøren
"We fear similar consequences for smaller organisms.”
Care for some plastic with that fish fillet?
According to DTU Aqua, 30 percent of Danish herring and whiting in the waters north of the Great Belt Bridge (Storebælt) contain pieces of plastic measuring between 0.5 and 5mm in size.
Foreign researchers have found similar results for mussels, cod, mackerel and other fish in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel. Up to 83 percent of Scottish lobsters contain plastic threads in their stomachs.
Sea of plastic, it's unfantastic
It is approximated that 15,000 tonnes of plastic ends up in the North Sea every year.
Decomposition rates of plastic span hundreds of years, resulting in devastating consequences for the ecosystem.