Study Reveals Harmful Effects of Microplastics on Fish

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MICROPLASTICS found in aquatic environments pose risks to the normal growth and health of fish, a study by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) has revealed. Led by Dr. Rey Capangpangan and funded by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines, the project examined the presence of microplastics in milkfish from selected sampling sites in Mindanao.

Out of the 383 particles extracted from 30 milkfish, 235 were confirmed to contain microplastics. These findings indicate widespread plastic pollution in aquatic environments. While microplastics themselves may not be inherently toxic, their chemical nature allows them to attract and accumulate other toxic substances on their surfaces. This poses a potential threat to human health when microplastics with attached toxic substances are ingested, as stated by research team member Marybeth Hope Banda.

Furthermore, studies have shown that fish ingesting microplastics may experience a reduced appetite and hindered ability to consume sufficient nutrients for normal growth. This is because microplastics induce a sense of fullness in fish. Additionally, previous research has revealed that fish consuming microplastics can develop structural damage to the intestine, liver, gills, and brain, as well as experience disruption in metabolic balance, behavior, and fertility.

The degree of harmful effects depends on factors such as particle sizes, doses, and exposure parameters. However, it is currently not possible to estimate the potential risks of microplastic particles in food among Filipinos due to the unavailability of particle toxicity data in the country.

The Filipino people, living in an archipelagic country and relying on its fresh and marine water bodies, are at risk of ingesting microplastic-contaminated aquatic organisms. The data from Dr. Capangpangan’s study provides valuable insights into the extent of microplastic pollution and highlights the need for mitigation efforts.

Dr. Capangpangan emphasized the necessity for a harmonized protocol on toxicity threshold levels to identify the effects of microplastics on humans. This would help in assessing the potential risks and implementing appropriate measures to protect public health.

According to data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, milkfish production contributed 17.9 percent to the total fisheries production in the Philippines in 2020, amounting to P43.5 billion in the gross domestic product. The report also revealed that milkfish accounts for about 10 percent of the average annual fish consumption per Filipino household, which is approximately 36.8 kilograms.

Dr. Capangpangan’s study is part of the ongoing projects of the NRCP under the Saganang Pagkain para sa Lahat program of the National Basic Research Agenda. The NRCP is actively inviting researchers, scientists, and innovators to join the 2024 Annual Scientific Conference and the 91st General Membership Assembly, which will be held on March 12 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Source: The Manila Times

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