Plasticosis worries researchers: What’s behind plasticosis?

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According to new findings, plastic that enters the world’s oceans also appears capable of causing dangerous diseases. The first cases of plasticosis found in birds illustrate this case.

The world economy produces so much plastic that it can be found everywhere (even in the Arctic, whole mountains of plastic make it), also in our stomachs.

Puffins ingest plastic
When plastic enters the world’s oceans (researchers are working diligently to find a solution to eliminating it naturally), it never completely disappears (it can also be detected in breast milk). It breaks down into many parts until it becomes microplastic, ingested by fish and birds and eventually by us. That comes back when you’re at the top of the food chain.

According to a recent study, birds on the front lines of plastic pollution have contracted a disease that reacts to this material: plasticosis. This disease exclusively affects pale-footed divers on Lord Howe Island in Australia. It is triggered when they swallow pieces of plastic in passing while fishing for food for their litter of young birds.

Inflammation of the digestive tract.

When birds ingest microplastics (smaller than five millimetres), they infect their young birds, which then suffer an inflammation of the digestive tract. Biologists are certain this is the first case of fibrosis (formation of scar tissue) caused by plastic in wildlife.

The inflammation causes the birds’ tissues to become deformed as small plastic tears heal, making them more susceptible to future infections.

“Internally, they’re not doing well.”
Dr. Alex Bond, a member of the Natural History Museum and co-author of the study, explains that “these birds may look healthy on the outside, but they are not doing well on the inside.”

“This is the first time a study has looked at the stomach tissue of birds and shown that eating plastic can cause severe damage to the digestive system,” the researcher adds.

The newly discovered disease was found in only one bird species, but the scientists believe that puffins are probably not the only ones affected. According to the Department of Ecological Change, there are an estimated 75 to 199 million tons of plastic in the oceans and 24.4 trillion microplastic particles on the surface.

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