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Does Toxic Laden Plastic Ingested By Fish In The Wild Transfer To Their Tissue? YES.

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Earlier this fall 5 Gyres Ambassador and Advisor Dr. Chelsea Rochman gave an interview with 5 Gyres regarding her research on chemical transference to fish after they ingested pollutant inoculated plastic in a lab setting. Dr. Rochman’s study showed that this phenomenon does in fact occur, which was perhaps the most important scientific research gesturing to the human health implications associated with eating fish. The question remained, ‘Could you show that this occurs in the wild?’  Dr. Rochman, along with our very own Science Director, Dr. Marcus Eriksen just published another paper demonstrating the issue in the wild. The fish for this study came from The 5 Gyres South Atlantic Gyre voyage From Brazil to South Africa, that Dr. Rochman took part in.  As always, 5 Gyres is committed to not only our own scientific agenda, but to serve as a platform for scientists to gather data from some of the most remote regions of planet earth at a fraction of the cost. We applaud Dr. Rochman’s leadership here, and are very proud of CoFounder and Science Director, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, for his vision to make scientific data collection far easier than it has ever been before. Stay tune for his paper later this year which will give the first ever global estimate of micro-plastics in all 5 oceans.  Why are we called 5 Gyres?  Because when we started this organization, no one had been to all 5 Gyres to study plastic.  Faster, Farther, First. That’s 5 Gyres. 

From Dr. Chelsea Rochman:

We have become quite familiar with the idea that there is plastic in our oceans. In fact, the accumulation of plastic debris in open ocean habitats, including subtropical gyres, is a global phenomenon of growing concern, particularly with regard to wildlife. Plastic debris is associated with a cocktail of contaminants, including ingredients from manufacturing and chemical pollutants that accumulate on the material from surrounding seawater. When animals eat plastic debris , they are at risk of bioaccumulating these hazardous pollutants. Because we have found that contaminants bioaccumulate in fish as a product of plastic ingestion in the laboratory, we wanted to see if there was a particular chemical that might be indicative of plastic ingestion in wildlife. We examined the relationship between the bioaccumulation of hazardous chemicals in myctophids (lantern fish) associated with plastic debris and plastic contamination in remote and previously unmonitored pelagic habitats in the South Atlantic Ocean. Lanternfishes, sampled from each station were analyzed for several chemicals associated with plastic debris, including bisphenol A (BPA), alkylphenols, alkylphenol ethoxylates, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). We found that myctophid sampled from locations with greater plastic densities had significantly larger concentrations of PBDE#s 183 –209 (a chemical flame retardant) in their tissues suggesting that these higher brominated congeners of PBDEs are indicative of plastic contamination in the marine environment. These findings are supported by the research of Dr Hideshige Takada in Tokyo and Margy Gassel from OEHA at Cal EPA finding a similar pattern, strengthening our conclusions. Our results provide data on a previously unsampled pelagic gyre and highlight the challenges associated with characterizing plastic debris accumulation and associated risks to wildlife.

Link to The Study Here.

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