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Microplastics have been found in the guts of every marine mammal examined in a new study of animals washed up on Britain's shores.
Researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) examined 50 animals from 10 species of dolphins, seals and whales—and found microplastics (less than 5mm) in them all.
Particles - % - Fibres—which - Sources - Clothes
Most of the particles (84%) were synthetic fibres—which can come from sources including clothes, fishing nets and toothbrushes—while the rest were fragments, whose possible sources include food packaging and plastic bottles.
"It's shocking—but not surprising—that every animal had ingested microplastics," said lead author Sarah Nelms, of the University of Exeter and PML.
Number - Particles - Animal - Average - Particles
"The number of particles in each animal was relatively low (average of 5.5 particles per animal), suggesting they eventually pass through the digestive system, or are regurgitated.
"We don't yet know what effects the microplastics, or the chemicals on and in them, might have on marine mammals.
Research - Impacts - Animal - Health
"More research is needed to better understand the potential impacts on animal health."
Though the animals in the study died of a variety of causes, those that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of injuries or other causes.
Conclusions - Significance - Observation - Professor - Brendan
"We can't draw any firm conclusions on the potential biological significance of this observation," said Professor Brendan Godley, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
"We are at the very early stages of understanding this ubiquitous pollutant.
Benchmark - Studies
"We now have a benchmark that future studies can be compared with.
"Marine mammals are ideal sentinels of our impacts...
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