It’s common knowledge that when plastic bags get into the ecosystem, they can kill animals by blocking digestive tracks and choking animals. Now a study done by the European Commission has provided conclusive evidence that consumption of plastics by wildlife can transfer toxins into their tissues.
The study tested the plastics impacts on lugworms, an important animal for maintaining coastal biodiversity by eating sand and by being a food source on birds. The lugworms were fed mixtures of 95% sand and 5% plastic. The plastic was exposed to pollutants usually found in marine systems like nonylphenol (found in detergents) and phenanthrene (found in runoff from cars) as well as BDE-47 (a flame retardant) and triclosan (an anti-microbial agent).
After feeding the mixture to the worms the concentration of the toxins was 326%-3770% greater in the worms' tissues than in the sand mixture. This increase in toxins led to the worms to have immune systems that were 60% weaker than normal and consumption rates 50% less than normal, as well as increased mortality rates.
This study shows that the effects of plastic pollution are even worse than we imagine. If plastic waste in the oceans continues to rise the effects on the ecosystem will be devastating.