Microplastics have been found in the stomachs of fish across Japan and South East Asian countries, but there is no scientific data available on such prevalence in the Indian waters, says a researcher. Therefore, to find out if microplastics are also present in the Indian waters, Japan’s Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) earlier this week entered into a research collaboration with the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) here. “Each time we eat fish, we may eat plastic. Our studies have confirmed the presence of microplastics in the stomachs of fish and it could go into the body of a human being who consumes it (fish),” Prof Hideshige Takada, the head of the laboratory of organic geochemistry at TUAT, told PTI. Takada’s team conducted a research in which it found microplastics in the stomachs of fish in the Tokyo Bay. Microplastics were found in nearly 80 per cent of the fish samples, he said.
A similar study conducted by another scientist of the USA in Indonesia also confirmed microplastics were present in the bodies of fish around the region, he claimed, adding a similar result was reported from China too. “In India, there is no scientific data available on this phenomenon. So we are collaborating with the NIO to study all the aspects of microplastics, including its accumulation in sediments,” the researcher said. The Goa-based NIO is one of the constituent laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The microplastic particles generally come from waste such as plastic bags, bottle caps and containers broken down by waves and ultraviolet rays, and also from microbeads widely used in cosmetics and toothpastes.
They absorb hazardous chemicals and could become concentrated in birds and fish who mistakenly eat it. Takada said the microplastics discharged in the rivers find way into the ocean and that is how they are found even in sediments. “They are washed into the ocean and there due to ultra violate radiation, the plastics get fragmented into small pieces,” he said. Such fragmentation occurs continuously converting plastic into microplastic, which finally goes down to the bottom (of the water body). The microplastics get accumulated in sediments and cause pollution, he said. He said the TUAT’s research has also revealed that the amount of microplastics in sediments is on the rise and it is much more than in water.
Microplastics are dangerous for plants and animals as they contain chemicals which are added during manufacturing stage to enhance durability of plastic items, he said. “The (plastic) industry uses many chemicals and some of them are harmful to biota. Some such chemicals are still present in microplastics. The plastics used in electric products have flame retardants, which are harmful for the nature,” he said.