A recent study of mussels living in the oceans off the United Kingdom have found that 100 percent of the popular mollusks found there as well as in supermarkets had microplastics and other man made materials in their systems.

The study, conducted in 2018 by researchers with the University of Hull and the Brunel University London collected the mussels from eight areas around the coastline of the United Kingdom between November 2016 and February 2017, and eight supermarkets representing eight unnamed brands, according to the University of Hull.

Some highlights:

  • 100 per cent of samples taken from UK waters and supermarket-bought products contained microplastics or other debris
  • For every 100g of mussels consumed, it is estimated there are approximately 70 pieces of microplastics
  • More particles were found in supermarket mussels which had been cooked or frozen, than in the freshly caught mussels.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that global contamination of the marine environment by microplastic is impacting wildlife and its entry into the food chain is providing a pathway for the waste that we dispose of to be returned to us through our diet,” Professor Jeanette Rotchell, of the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Hull said in a news release put out by the university.

“This study provides further evidence of this route of exposure and we now need to understand the possible implications of digesting these very small levels,” Rotchell said. “Continued research will hopefully drive effective human risk assessment. Chances are that these have no implications, but none the less, there is not enough data out there to say there is no risk. We still need to do the studies and show that is the case. There are currently regulation of some contaminants in food, in the long term, regulatory solutions to this problem will also be needed.”

Rotchell noted that in addition to the human consumption of these plastic- laden marine foods, humans are also exposed to plastics via other food sources, drinking water, and airborne plastics, which can be inhaled. She further noted that in addition to plastics found in mussels, other man-made debris such as cotton and rayon are ingested by these filter feeders. “All the conversation is about microplastics, but textiles could also be worth investigation.”

With microplastic and marine plastic pollution prevalent throughout the world’s oceans, mussels and other mollusks in other parts of the world are most likely to contain these man-made materials in their systems. It is a sad reminder of how much plastic pollution has permeated all levels of the world’s marine ecosystems, from planktons all the way up to the whales.