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Accumulation of Plastics in the Food Chain

Are we trying to kill ourselves? Are we the murderers of other species?

Plastics are ubiquitous! We are surrounded by plastics from all around. Even after knowing the harmful effects of plastics to the environment and our surroundings we still are using plastics. Plastics once made do not get completely degraded. They persist in the environment for so long.

Marine plastics contain harmful additives such as plasticizers, antioxidants, anti-static agents and flame retardants. Additives in pellets may be very damaging. Additives are further applied to finished plastic products, making plastic pieces even more dangerous than pellets.

Some additives and additive-derived chemicals (e.g., nonylphenol, bisphenol A) cause endocrine disruption. It is a condition in which additives interfere with body processes mediated by hormones. The detrimental effects from this can be impaired brain development, disabilities in learning and behaviour, malformations of the body and limbs, disruption of normal sexual development and increased incidents of cancer.

More than over 180 species of animals have ingested plastic debris, including birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals till date. This ingested plastic has damaged thousands of animals physically and internally.  Marine organisms have absorbed a lot of chemicals through natural food webs. Plastic mediated transfer of chemicals occur in sea birds from the marine organisms.

Plastic-mediated exposure is probably the chief itinerary by which higher-trophic-level organisms acquire these chemicals. It is because they bind strongly to particles, their large molecular size limits transport through cell membranes and they are metabolized very quickly. Other chemicals in marine animals probably comes mainly from plastic fragments. It clearly shows that chemicals from plastics are transferred to the internal tissue of animals that ingest them. This chain continues and continues further. Plastic chemicals are transferred one by one to different organisms and the harmful effect of plastics keeps on multiplying.

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