SPAIN – A comprehensive international project, “i-plastic” has sounded the alarm that all aquatic species in river mouths flowing into the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean are contaminated with microplastics.

The study was led by scientists at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB).

Molluscs, particularly affected due to their water-filtering capacity, topped the list of impacted species.

The research, delving into estuaries and adjacent coasts, identified rivers as major contributors to microplastic pollution in the oceans, emphasizing that estuaries act as hotspots for the accumulation of these harmful particles.

Estuarine ecosystems, acting as transition zones between rivers and seas, face a substantial threat as microplastics accumulate in sediments.

These particles have the potential to capture hazardous chemicals, enter the food web through ingestion, and bioaccumulate, posing risks to aquatic ecosystems and commercial species.

The study revealed alarming statistics, with 85 percent of mussels and 53 percent of oysters analyzed having ingested microplastics.

Estuarine-dependent marine fishes, including white mullet, silver mojarra, and Brazilian mojarra, were 75 percent affected.

In coastal regions influenced by estuarine outflows, 86 percent of European hake and 85 percent of Norwegian lobster contained microplastics or synthetic microfibers in their gut.

Nanoplastics, smaller than 0.0001mm, emerged as a potential greater risk than microplastics, capable of passing through cellular membranes and causing more extensive harm to species in estuarine and marine environments.

The researchers emphasized the urgent need for global attention to combat this pervasive pollution, warning of its adverse impact on coral reef systems at all depths.

Patrizia Ziveri, Oceanographer at ICTA-UAB and project coordinator, highlighted the increasing accumulation of particles in sediments, paralleling the rise in global plastic production.

The study underscored that microplastics deposited on the seafloor tripled since 2000, with pollution concentrations particularly high near urban centers and wastewater treatment plant outflows.

The research urged the adoption of bioremediation as a viable solution to reduce microplastic pollution in coastal marine environments.

Laboratory experiments demonstrated that various filter-feeder communities removed nearly 90 percent of microplastics from surrounding waters, offering a glimmer of hope in the battle against this insidious environmental threat.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.