Home News Plastic pollution: 'Hidden' chemicals build up in seabirds

Plastic pollution: ‘Hidden’ chemicals build up in seabirds

Plastic pollution can build up in the bodies of seabirds, adding to the threats they face in the wild, according to a new study.

Researchers fed plastic pellets to nesting chicks to look at the direct effects of plastic exposure.

They found chemicals from plastic ended up in the birds’ liver and fatty tissues at levels thousands of times higher than normal.

Monitoring of wild seabirds, including albatrosses, revealed similar findings.

With nearly half of the world’s seabird species in decline, and 28% classed as globally threatened, chemical pollution is a “pervasive and growing threat”, said the researchers.

The work was led by Shouta Nakayama from Hokkaido University, Japan.

“These findings provide direct evidence of seabird exposure to plastic additives and emphasise the role of marine debris ingestion as a source of chemical pollution,” they wrote in the journal Current Biology.

Given current trends, it is estimated that 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic waste by 2050.

Birds can mistake plastic floating on the water for food, which can cause injury or death. The effects of toxic chemicals absorbed by the body are less clear.

The next step is to find out whether chemicals in plastic will have detrimental effects on reproduction and survival, said Dr Samantha Patrick of the University of Liverpool, who is not connected with the study.

Studies examining the direct consequences of ingestion are crucial to understand the “hidden” effects of plastics on seabirds, she said.

“This study demonstrates that plastics do lead to raised levels of contaminants in seabird chicks,” she explained. “This is an important step forward in our understanding of how plastics affect marine species.”

The research team looked at streaked shearwater chicks living on a cliff on Awashima Island, Japan.

They then took samples for analysis from wild sea birds living in the Hawaiian Islands, including two types of albatross, the sooty tern, the brown noddy and two species of booby.

Follow Helen on Twitter.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

Astronauts conduct second Chinese space station spacewalk

HELSINKI — Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming embarked on a second Shenzhou-12 spacewalk late Thursday to carry out work on a space...

Space Force awards $32 million in contracts to startups and small businesses

Of 24 companies that competed at the Space Force Pitch Day, 19 were selected for SBIR Phase 2 awards WASHINGTON — At a virtual...

PNT alternatives champion open-market approach

TAMPA, Fla. — Competing positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) companies are joining forces to accelerate efforts to back up global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). The...

Space Force to establish new command in Colorado focused on training and education

STARCOM is the third and final field command being stood up by the Space Force WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force on Aug. 23 will...

Single molecules keep to the straight and narrow – Physics World

Precisely sending and receiving single molecules. Courtesy: L Grill A change in the position of a single molecule can determine the outcome of a chemical...