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Microplastics were found in the digestive tracts of northern anchovies, which feed on plankton and might mistake these microplastics for food. According to a new study, after anchovies ingest the microplastics, they work their way up the food web and even become more concentrated along the way.

Source: KION News Channel 46/YouTube

The study was conducted in the vast waters of the California Monterey Bay. The researchers also found microplastics in almost all murres examined, which are common black and white seaboards. These birds feed almost exclusively on anchovies. Almost a quarter of the particles found in the bird showed estrogen-like activity, which can be extremely damaging health-wise for animals.

Conservation biologist Sami Michishita led the study intending to provide information about the prevalence, composition, and estrogenic activity of microplastics in Monterey Bay. Monterey Bay is an extremely productive and valuable ecosystem. Forbes reports that it is an important refueling and resting stop on the Pacific Flyway for tens of millions of migrating birds.

“These tiny plastic particles are leaching substances that have the potential for hormonal disruption that can have cascading effects on reproductive and immune functions”, the study’s senior author, ecotoxicologist Myra Finkelstein, an adjunct professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement.

The researchers found that 58 percent of anchovies and 100 percent of murres had microparticles in their digestive tracts. Most of the particles were fibers, and over half of them were identified as plastic. Many seabirds consume large pieces of plastics, also known as macroplastics, because they mistake them for food.

“One of the main problems with macroplastics is that they’re taking the place of food. With microplastics, a major concern is the toxic compounds that may be leaching out of it,” Finkelstein said.

Many of the chemicals in plastic are known as endocrine-disrupting compounds because they can mimic hormones like estrogen and disrupt the physiological functions of the body. While the study focused on if the murres and anchovies were consuming microplastics, researchers hope to answer the question of how these plastics are affecting the animals.

“The next step is to see how this may be affecting the birds,” she said. “With microplastics, it seems we are finding them anywhere we look. But we need to do more work to find out what the biological impact is.”

Plastic waste is killing marine life all around the globe at an alarming rate, dead whales washed ashore with plastic in their stomachs have been found in the Philippines, Thailand, Spain, and in more places than we can count! Not to mention, half of the baby sea turtle population dies from consuming plastic! Sea Shepherd created an eye-opening campaign to draw attention to how plastic pollution impacts whales and dolphins. Plastic is also found in various land animals as well, like deer and cows.

There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic Pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter, and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and household cleaners, using mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads

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