A new study shows that the top region where oysters grow is polluted with microplastics. The study was conducted by researchers at Simon Fraser University, and it recently appeared in the journal PLOS ONE. The findings urge that we research more on how oysters are affected by the contamination. These shellfish get sold in restaurants and grocery stores in the country, and we don’t know yet how it can affect our health.
Leah Bendell is a professor of marine ecology and ecotoxicology at Simon Fraser University, and along with two colleagues, took samples from 16 sites of the coasts in B.C. They discovered plastic particles of less than 5mm diameter, coming from the industry of oysters and urban pollution.
WIll It Impact Human Health?
Researchers found microplastics in all sites. But in three places, they found a high concentration of microbeads, which triggered an alarm, said Bendell. Microbeads can accumulate metals, and he high concentration of microbeads will also increase the concentration of metals. Bendell explains that the toxic metals could cycle through food, and they don’t know yet if it’s a threat to our health:
“The ultimate question is — is it going to have an impact on human health for us that ingest them. It would just be really prudent to find out are they taking up the microbeads and if so, are they carrying contaminants, and if so is the organism itself affected and are there implications for human health.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s research scientist, Chris Pearce said that the federal department is also worried about microplastics and the impact they might have on shellfish. They have been studying this problem for the last two years.
He added that in lab tests, shellfish show some stress when they are contaminated with microplastics. However, they don’t know if it affects their health. He also added that they haven’t yet found if there are “health implications of microplastic particles for humans.”
It Affects The Whole Environment
Pearce stated that researchers would have to further their studies. They must find out how microplastics impact shellfish and the animals or humans that consume them. Pearce concludes that this is not just a problem for the oyster industry:
“It’s not an aquaculture problem, it’s a worldwide problem, and it impacts every food industry.”
Moreover, microplastics affect the whole environment, concluded Bendell:
“If this is happening to the farmed shellfish you can bet it’s happening to all the wild shellfish, so it’s not just an industry issue.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.