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Plastic: It's What's For Dinner

John Minchillo / AP

John Minchillo / AP

A new study has found plastic or fibrous debris in the guts of nearly one of every four fish sold at fish markets in California and Indonesia. The research raises concerns for human health. 

UC Davis researchers sampled fish and shellfish from Indonesia and California. They thought the results would vary widely given the difference in recycling and wastewater treatment between California and Indonesia. 

Instead, the amount of debris was the same. But in Indonesia most of the debris was plastic, in California it was fibers. The fibers could be microplastics or synthetic fibers that come from wastewater in washing machines. 

Chelsea Rochman is with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and is the study's lead author. She says it’s unclear whether the fibers could be harmful if ingested.

“There’s a good chance that we eat them and they pass through our body, but there’s also a chance that they don’t," says Rochman. "I suppose in some cases the debris that we’re finding in the animals we may very well be eating ourselves, but we just really don’t know enough yet to say whether or not this is hazardous.”

Researchers sampled fish humans can eat whole, including sardines, anchovies, mussels and oysters.

"I think we should be concerned about it in the fact that it's something that we could potentially stop," says Rochman. 

"We could easily put a filter on the back of the washing machine and we would just have to clean that out in addition to our dryer every time we do a wash," says Rochman.

The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Amy Quinton

Former Environment Reporter

Amy came to Sacramento from New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) where she was Environment Reporter. Amy has also reported for NPR member stations WFAE in Charlotte, WAMU in Washington D.C. and American Public Media's "Marketplace."  Read Full Bio 

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