The team is still studying whether chemicals in the material can transfer into the meat.
While other research has found plastics in the bellies of popular dinner-plate items such as tuna and swordfish, this is the first study to link marine plastic ingestion directly to fish sold for human consumption.
The researchers found plastic clothing fibers in the guts of almost one-fourth of the anchovy, smelt, rockfish, salmon, bass, sanddab, cod and oysters.
The researchers sampled 76 fish from markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and 64 from Half Moon Bay and Princeton in California.
“In Indonesia, they sell the fish whole, and consumers eat the fish whole, guts and all”, Williams said. In Indonesia, 100% of the debris found in contaminated fish was plastic.
Pollution is wreaking havoc in marine ecosystem and this is directly evident from a recent study that found that roughly 25 per cent of fish have ingested some form of man-made debris.
The main difference between the two locations-which are some 8,000 miles apart-was the type of debris discovered. The problem is made worse by a lack of purified drinking water that forces its residents to drink bottled water. But in Indonesia, authoritites are not that interested in plastic management and you can see that from the fish’s guts in coastal areas. According to Susan Williams, who co-authored the study from UC Davis, Indonesia has “the best and worst of the situation”.
A group of researchers from the University of California’s Davis School of Veterinary Medicine sampled almost three dozen species of fish from several local supermarkets in California and Indonesia and found unusually high amounts of plastic debris in the animals’ guts. However, clothes washed in machines lead to fibers finding their way into treatment plants and consumed by fish in the state. Scientists aren’t yet sure. Local waste management drives the type of debris in the fish.
The next level of testing will seek to find out whether the plastic and synthetic materials are leaching into other parts of the fish, and whether there are health effects to humans from ingesting plastic. Chelsea Rochman, the lead author of the publication said that there is not a big difference in terms of how much debris was found in the samples but there is variation when it comes to the type of debris.
But, Rochman told Capital Public Radio, it’s also possible that we are eating small fibers ourselves.