Nano-plastics accumulated by marine life may pose risk to human health, study says

WORLD – Nano-plastics, formed as a result of degradation of microplastics and easily ingested by marine life may create a risk to human food chains on accumulation, potentially threatening food safety and human health, shows a study conducted by the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Nano plastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than 1µm in size, may be formed from aquatic environment and further to humans and past studies have shown they could potentially induce physical damages, biological stress or leaching of additives (inorganic and organic).

In their study where they used the acorn barnacle Amphibalanus amphitrite as a model organism, NUS demonstrated that Nano-plastics consumed during the larval stage are retained and accumulated inside the barnacle larvae until they reach adulthood.

“We opted to study acorn barnacles as their short life cycle and transparent bodies made it easy to track and visualize the movement of Nano-plastics in their bodies within a short span of time,” says Samarth Bhargava, a PhD student from the Department of Chemistry at the NUS Faculty of Science, who is the first author of the research paper.

“Barnacles may be at the lower levels of the food chain, but what they consume will be transferred to the organisms that eat them. In addition, plastics are capable of absorbing pollutants and chemicals from the water.

These toxins may be transferred to the organisms if the particles of plastics are consumed, and can cause further damage to marine ecosystems and human health,” marine biologist Dr. Neo Mei Lin from the Tropical Marine Science Institute at NUS and one of the authors of the paper said to FoodIngredientsFirst.

The team looks forward to review the translocation of nanoparticles in marine organisms and potential pathways of transfer in marine ecosystems.

Due to a large amount of plastic waste in the environment and concerns around its impact on the environment, researchers in collaboration with governments are looking into strategies to alleviate the effects including oceanic pollution.

As a result, the team of researchers said they are exploring ways that will address such problems.

Plastics in the food-chain and concerns

Earlier this year, a study by scientists from the State University of New York in collaboration with Orb Media indicated presence of potentially harmful micro-plastics in water bottles of eleven leading brands including Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Aqua (Danone) and Nestlé Pure Life and San Pellegrino (Nestlé).

The study has sparked world-wide speculations on the impacts of plastics on health but according to UK medical journal Lancet, there is no enough evidence on their potential effects but urgent measures are needed to mollify effects on both ecosystems and the human body.

According to researchers, levels of plastic fibres in the bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water.

In turn, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a health review on the potential risks of plastic in drinking water.

In line with the plastic pollution intrigue, the European Commission announced new rules to control oceanic plastic pollution targeting the 10 highest polluting single-use products, which together constitute 70% of all marine litter items.

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