Avoid food poisoning – don’t eat shrimp or sprat. Full of plastic, E. coli and other diseases
The plastic in our seas, lakes, rivers and oceans is not just pure plastic, but is often coated in bacteria and chemicals. The Belgian Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) is currently studying the extent of the problem and looking for new methods for combating the amount of plastic pollution. They found no less than 250 different types of chemicals and a wide range of bacteria on plastic removed from the sea that could be seriously pathogenic.
Sprat and shrimp swallow plastic and diseases that are full of poison and bacteria
Marine animals that swallow a variety of plastic substances – primarily shrimp and sprat – are consequently seriously exposed to toxic substances and diseases. This has an effect upon the entire food chain. It is estimated that around 20,000 tons of waste ends up in the North Sea every year, most of it being plastic that floats on the surface and either gets washed up on the sea’s shores or sinks to the bottom. Many of these plastics cannot be seen, and they are called microplastics, which can be found in things like body scrubs or in industrial waste. The latter is particularly susceptible to attracting chemical substances and bacteria.
Shrimp and sprat are polluted, full of microplastics, E. coli, Vibrio and hospital bacteria
Why are shrimp and sprat so polluted? Research has shown that 63% of shrimp and 9% of all sprat caught in the North Sea contain microplastics. When digesting food, the marine animals absorb the chemicals and bacteria that cling to the microplastics. They could contain Escherichia coli (E. coli bacteria, that can cause peritonitis), Vibrio (which can cause food poisoning) and Pseudomonas (a harmful bacteria that flourishes in hospitals).
The effects of microplastics remain unclear, but preventative methods are being studied
While the effects of microplastics, as well as the chemicals and bacteria they carry, are still under investigation, preventative methods are already being examined. ILVO intends to develop ways for reducing plastic waste as much as possible, with new, more natural materials for nets being one option. Some of the possibilities include hemp, flax or sisal, all of which are biodegradable. Another possibility is bio-plastics, which must also be as biodegradable as possible. An example of this is keratin, which is found in chicken feathers, and is already being used in a range of plastic applications. Another aspect involves cleaning up the plastic that is already present in the oceans, which is why the institution is investigating bacteria that can biodegrade plastics. They are screening bacteria for certain characteristics and believe that initial tests will soon be conducted for biodegrading plastic in the sea.
Good news: Canada and the US prohibit microbeads. Manufacturers to follow
Fortunately there is some good news too. The use of microplastics in bodycare products such as body scrubs will hopefully soon be prohibited in most countries around the world. This includes the US, where 8 states have already outlawed microplastics, while Canada is busy instituting a total ban. The Netherlands intends to introduce a ban in 2017 and most of the major cosmetics and bodycare manufacturers have already consented to eradicating the use of microplastics in their products.