Health alert! Fish that you eat may have plastic toxins

Health alert! Fish that you eat may have plastic toxins

Kollam: Plastic menace is confined not just to land, but to seas as has been exposed by shocking images of fish carcasses containing large volumes of the environmentally hazardous material. Even as India has taken steps to curb plastic use, the part of the sea along the coastline has been polluted by plastic apart from effluents. A team from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kochi, has confirmed the presence of microplastics in the stomach of fish varieties like mackerel (ayala) sardine (chala) and anchovies (natholi) during a study conducted in the coast off Kerala. Experts say toxins in plastic could enter the bodies of fish consumers.

As marine fishes mackerel, sardine and anchovy are found along the coast, the chances of their exposure to plastic drifting from land are high.

The presence of plastic has already been confirmed in plankton found on the surface of the sea. Planktons are the main sources of food for coastal fish varieties.

CMFRI Principal Scientist V Kripa told Manorama that plastic reached the digestive system of fish that consumed planktons as food.

The presence of plastic was found in the samples of fish collected off the coast during the last three years. As people usually consume cooked fish, the chances of these plastic causing health concerns are remote. However, we can rule out health hazards completely only after elaborate scientific studies, Kripa added.

Fishnets, plastic waste and plastic covers that reach the sea surface are the major sources of microparticles of plastics found in the digestive system of these fish varieties, said Kripa. (Microplastics are very tiny pieces of plastic that pollute the environment.)

If chemical particles are absorbed into the cells of fishes it can even cause damages to the genetic structure of the fish varieties. CMFRI have already begun a study to get a clear picture on the effects of plastic on the genetic structure of fishes, she further noted.

It is well known that certain chemicals in plastic may enter the food we eat. This happens as plastic in the containers, bottles or wrappers get leached.

Marine plastic debris has already emerged as a problem in the coastal areas of Kerala, thus endangering fish and ecosystems. It is also threatening the livelihood of fishermen. The Kerala government has already banned the manufacturing, sale, storage and transportation of single-use plastic products like carry bags, disposable cups, straws and PET bottles from January 1, 2020.

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