Microplastics found as microbeads within cleaning, beauty and dental products are so small they cannot be sived out through water plants and these tiny particles often end up in the sea. Microplasics are one type of pollution that we come across in everyday life, we can’t always see them, just like many types of air pollution. These pollutants are present throughout the marine environment and ingestion of these plastic particles (<1 mm) has been demonstrated in a laboratory setting for a wide array of marine organisms. Like plastics of any size, they look like food, but end up clogging up the insides of the animal, leading to starvation.
A study published 5 years ago investigated the presence of microplastics in two species of commercially grown shellfish: Mytilus edulis (blue mussel) and Crassostrea gigas (pacific oyster). Microplastics were recovered from the soft tissues of both species. At time of human consumption, M. edulis contained on average 0.36g plastic, while a plastic load of 0.47g was detected in C. gigas.
As a result, the annual dietary exposure for European shellfish consumers can amount to 11,000 microplastics per year. What is the effect of this pollution on our bodies? The presence of marine microplastics in seafood could pose a threat to food safety, however, due to the complexity of estimating microplastic toxicity, estimations of the potential risks for human health posed by microplastics in food stuffs is not yet possible.
Microbeads will eventually be banned, however it will take generations to leave the seas. In the meantime do we avoid shellfish and fish, and all the other pollutants they contain, like heavy metals? Or do we protect our bodies from these pollutants with a diet high in antioxidants compounds which can help prevent oxidative damage to our insides?