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Anchovy eat microbeads from personal care products

Japanese researchers have concluded in the journal Nature that for the first time it has been proven that fish eat microbeads from personal care products. The scientists studied 64 anchovy (Engraulis japonicus) from Tokyo Bay. Anchovy is the most popular fish in Japan. Normally, the contents of the stomach are not removed before consumption. As a result, people also consume microplastics.

  • A clear majority (49) of the anchovy had swallowed pieces of plastic. According to the researchers at 77% it’s the highest percentage of fish with plastic found in its digestive system.
  • In total, 150 pieces of plastic were identified. The average number of pieces per fish was 2.3 and the highest number found in individual fish was 15.
  • In the water these pieces of plastic – like magnets – attracted toxins. The researchers found that exposure to toxins due to swallowed plastic is lower than toxins that the fish ingest naturally through food. This could change with the increase in plastic pollution.

In addition to pieces of plastic, microfibres and foam, 7.3% of the total amount of plastic consisted of round beads. The microbeads of four face scrubs from three brands were studied. The shape of the round beads is so similar to microbeads from the scrubs looked at that it is improbable that they could be from a different source. However, it is impossible to say the same with certainty about the fragmented pieces of plastic. Some personal care products contain fragmented pieces of plastic which are indistinguishable from disintegrated fragments from larger pieces of plastic in the sea. This means that the figure 7.3% could actually be higher.  (25 October 2016)

Photo from article: microbeads found in anchovy