Microplastics in mussels sampled from coastal waters and supermarkets in the United Kingdom

Global contamination of the marine environment by plastic has led to the discovery of microplastics in a range of marine species, including those for human consumption. In this study, the presence of microplastics and other anthropogenic debris in seawater and mussels (Mytilus edulis) from coastal waters of the U.K., as well as supermarket sources, was investigated. These were detected in all samples from all sites with spatial differences observed. Seawater samples taken from 6 locations (in triplicates) displayed 3.5 ± 2.0 debris items/L on average (range: 1.5–6.7 items/L). In wild mussels sampled from 8 locations around the U.K. coastal environment, the number of total debris items varied from 0.7 to 2.9 items/g of tissue and from 1.1 to 6.4 items/individual. For the supermarket bought mussels, the abundance of microplastics was significantly higher in pre-cooked mussels (1.4 items/g) compared with mussels supplied live (0.9 items/g). Micro-FT-IR spectroscopy was conducted on 136 randomly selected samples, with 94 items characterized. The spectra found that 50% of these debris items characterized were microplastic, with an additional 37% made up of rayon and cotton fibers. The microplastic levels detected in the supermarket bought mussels present a route for human exposure and suggests that their quantification be included as food safety management measures as well as for environmental monitoring health measures.

J. Li, C. Green, A. Reynolds and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 241, October 2018, Pages 35–44

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