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Plastic nanoparticles found in fishbrains

A new study from researchers at Lunds University shows that plastic nanoparticles can be assimilated by zooplankton and continue in the food chain. When fishes eat the particles they end up in the brain and affects the fishes behaviour.

A group of researchers at the department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology at Lunds university carried out the study.

– We could show that small pieces of plastics are more dangerous to zooplankton than big ones, says Tommy Cedervall, leader of the group.

Smaller plastic nanoparticles, 50 nanometers, killed the zooplankton, while the bigger ones did not.
The group also showed that the difference continued throughout the food chain.

– The pieces of plastics were then found in the brains of fishes and we could see changes in the brain's morphology, says Tommy Cedervall.

The fishes that had eaten zooplankton containing plastics were more dull and found it difficult to find food.
The studies were completely carried out in a laboratory. Therefore it is not possible to predict if the assimilation of plastics are applicable on natural conditions.

Bethanie Carney Almroth, ecotoxicologist at the University of Gothenburg and working in the same field as FRAM, finds the study to be well done, but emhasize that the researchers have worked in a simplified system. In an interview by Swedish Radio, she says:

– Research demands that, because you can't build an entire ocean in your lab. Instead you have a certain kind of fish, one type of zooplankton and algae, and one type of particle from one type of polymer. The world doesn't look that way, but when asking certain questions in a lab, that's the way you have to do it.

Hear the radio interview on Swedish Radio.