As the world celebrates World Environment Day, a study from the University of California, Davis, reveals that microplastics can carry land-based pathogens to the oceans, posing a threat to the health of humans and wildlife alike. Bluewater, a world-leading innovator of water purification solutions designed to end the need for single-use plastic bottles, said the study’s findings highlighted the need to celebrate, protect and restore our planet.
A UC Davis press release said the study by a team of its university researchers had indicated that, by hitchhiking on microplastics, pathogens can disperse throughout the ocean, reaching places a land parasite wouldn’t be found usually.
The study, published in the Scientific Reports journal, is the first to connect microplastics in the ocean with land-based pathogens.
“The study provides even more evidence of the threats posed by tiny microplastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters, which are literally everywhere, in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.” said Swedish environmental entrepreneur Bengt Rittri, founder and CEO of Bluewater (Photo above). He noted how a study by OrbMedia had found microplastics in bottled drinking water after testing more than 250 bottles from 11 brands.
The research team at UC Davis conducted laboratory experiments to test whether the selected pathogens can associate with plastics in seawater. They used two different types of microplastics: polyethylene microbeads and polyester microfibers. Microbeads are often found in cosmetics, such as exfoliants and cleansers, while microfibers are in clothing and fishing nets.
They found that microplastics can make it easier for disease-causing pathogens such as Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium(Crypto), and Giardia to concentrate in plastic-contaminated areas of the ocean.
T. gondii is a parasite found only in cat feces, which has infected many ocean species with the disease toxoplasmosis, connected to the deaths of sea otters and other critically endangered wildlife, including Hector’s dolphins and Hawaiian monk seals. In people, toxoplasmosis can cause lifelong illnesses, as well as developmental and reproductive disorders.