General, Research, Technology

Plastic garbage began to harm nature earlier than expected

For the past 10-15 years, scientists have been concerned thatplastic waste is very harmful to nature. And this is not only about plastic bottles and other large garbage. Increasingly, microplastics - plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size - are found in the organisms of animals and even humans. Recently, scientists have become interested in exactly when potentially hazardous substances began to penetrate into animal organisms. To find out, the researchers turned to the museum, which has kept jars of a wide variety of fish on its shelves since 1900. Having studied their insides, scientists made an amazing discovery - plastic began to harm nature much earlier than previously thought. Within the framework of this article, we will figure out what kind of museum with fish we are talking about and how the research was carried out. Also, scientists have published several photos that may interest you.

Plastic began to poison nature almost immediately after the appearance

Danger of microplastics

That in addition to large plastic wastethere is also microplastic, we learned relatively recently. On our website, this term was first mentioned in the 2014 article on the pollution of the world's oceans. Indeed, scientists began to talk about the threat from microscopic plastic particles only about 10 years ago. At first, these particles were found in fish organisms, but then they were found even inside humans. The World Health Organization has assured that they cannot harm our health. However, even this organization can be very wrong. Scientists recently discovered that microplastics can penetrate into the lungs and cause lung destruction. I wrote more about this discovery in this article, but let's talk about the results of a new scientific work for now.

Mostly microplastics enter human bodies through water

When did plastic become dangerous?

The first plastic in history was created by the Englishinventor Alexander Parks in 1855. However, the first products from this material began to appear only in 1950. at the moment, plastic waste is one of the most important problems of mankind, so scientists became interested - at what point did plastic begin to harm nature? In particular, researchers were interested in when microscopic particles began to penetrate living organisms. To find the answer to this question, they decided to study fish that lived in different historical times.

Samples of fish from different years are kept in the Field Museum of Chicago

Samples of fish that lived in 1900 and beyondkept in the Chicago Field Museum. On its shelves for more than hundreds of years there have been cans with the bodies of two billion fish of different species preserved in alcohol. As part of their scientific work, the researchers decided to study the organisms of four types of fish:

  • largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides);
  • channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus);
  • sandpiper (Notropis stramineus);
  • round goby (Neogobius melanostomus).

As part of their scientific work, the researchers tookabout 5 samples of each fish species living in different decades. They performed an autopsy and began to study their digestive system. The insides were treated with hydrogen peroxide, which dissolves all organic matter and leaves only foreign elements. Scientists looked for plastic particles with a microscope and until 1950 the fish were found to be clean. But with the advent of times when plastic began to be actively used for the manufacture of various kinds of objects, the concentration of plastic particles in fish organisms began to increase.

Jars with fish samples

Upon further study, it turned out thatmost microplastics are in the form of fibers. That is, most often the plastic got into the water during the washing of clothes, which were already made from synthetic fabrics at that time. According to one of the authors of the scientific work, Caleb McMahan, this is a very disturbing discovery that proves that microplastics are everywhere.

Microplastics in the body of fish under a microscope

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So now we know that plastic startedpoison the nature immediately after its appearance in 1950. Scientists still do not know how to cleanse nature and save the planet from destruction. There is already evidence that microplastics can harm human health. To minimize all risks, water must at least be purified. I wrote about how to do this in this article.