In an article published on January 28, 2017 by CBC News, editor Brandie Weikle informs about a new report entitled “Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: Part 2 of a global assessment.” The report was published on January 25, 2017 by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), which is a scientific body advising the United Nations (UN) and whose secretariat is the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The new report is a follow-up to the first assessment report on the microplastics issue published by GESAMP in April 2015. “Microplastics have been found in a variety of commercial fish and shellfish, including samples purchased from retail outlets,” the new report states. At current contamination levels, it is considered unlikely that microplastics “represent an objective risk to human health (food safety).” However, more research is needed to determine the potential risk posed by microplastics for food safety and food security.
According to Chelsea Rochman, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto, Canada, and co-editor of the report, microplastics have “infiltrated every level of the food chain in marine environments and likely fresh water, and so now we’re seeing it come back to us on our dinner plates.” The main source of microplastics is likely “larger plastic items . . . that enter the water and over time break down with the sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic,” including plastic bags, styrofoam food containers, and plastic cutlery, Rochman stated. Peter Wells, senior research fellow with the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University, Canada, and not directly involved in the report, added that microplastics “enter marine organisms, not just their guts but also their tissues.” Therefore, gutting fish will not remove all microplastics they consumed. Of further concern are the organic contaminants that microplastics absorb, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, flame retardants, and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), Wells explained.
Brandie Weikle (January 28, 2017). “Microplastics found in supermarket fish, shellfish.” CBC News
Emma Davies (February 9, 2017). “UN report says need for more data on microplastics in food fish.” Chemical Watch
GESAMP (2016). “Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: Part two of a global assessment.” Reports and Studies No. 93 (pdf)
GESAMP (2015). “Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: A global assessment.” Reports and Studies No. 90 (pdf)