Scientists have become increasingly worried that plastic pollution threatens marine life in the world's oceans, and now new research shows that they have reason to fear it can harm freshwater organisms, too. Organisms can be negatively affected by plastic nanoparticles, not just in the seas and oceans but in freshwater bodies too. These particles slow the growth of algae, cause deformities in water fleas and impede communication between small organisms and fish.
Plastic in the oceans (plastic soup) has been thought to seriously affect aquatic life for some time, but until now little research has been carried out into the levels and effects of plastics in the freshwater environment. The main sources of plastic are on land, so it is important to also look at the effects of plastic on land, says Professor Bart Koelmans, leader of the Wageningen University and IMARES research group. We know that nanoplastic particles are released during processes such as the thermal cutting of plastics and 3D printing and when small plastic particles are abrasion by sand a process that probably also takes place in nature.
Koelmans and his team carry out detailed research into the effects of plastic in the aquatic environment. They have previously published articles on the presence of plastic in fish, the accumulation of toxic substances from plastic and the effects on marine …
Not to mention that it seems some organisms, like fish, can send out a sort of warning system to other freshwater species that these particles are present. Fish can emit chemical substances called kairomones that can warn water fleas of a threat. The researchers found it intriguing that the effect of the kairomones appeared to be stronger in the presence of nanoplastic. Researchers believe then that the fish can detect disturbances in the water at low concentrations not easily seen by humans.
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