A viral social media video has highlighted the growing problem of microplastics entering the food chain.
Using a microscope, TikTok star Oneminmicro zoomed in between 40 and 400 times to examine the contents of a can of “the cheapest tuna chunks”.
Amongst the fish flesh he found a number of objects which he believes are plastic.
“Did you know that one in three fish contains plastic?” the narrator says during the video.
“Plastic that enters our waterways never truly breaks down. Instead it becomes microplastic and consumes our oceans.”
No easy solution to avoiding microplastics
While microplastics are known to penetrate fish flesh and can end up in our food in small amounts, the contaminants Oneminmicro found were quite large, with one measuring 2.5mm long.
For this reason he told Yahoo News Australia that he now believes the plastic he filmed may have entered the can during the manufacturing process.
The video has been viewed almost 930,000 times and attracted close to 5000 comments, with many people aghast at the concept of microplastics.
"Just don't eat fish," says one comment.
"That's why I don't eat anything from the sea," someone else wrote.
Despite these assertions, simply boycotting seafood is unlikely to rid a diet of microplastics.
The Seafood Importers Association of Australia point to research that suggests the average amount of microplastics consumed via fish is less than what is taken in through air.
Scientists have found that tiny pieces of plastic are now in almost everything.
Microplastics found in supermarket products including honey, beer and salt
Microplastics expert Dr Scott Wilson said microplastics are found in many products, with evidence that they're in salt, honey and beer.
A recent examination of Chinese salt found one kilogram can contain as many as 600 microplastics.
Dr Wilson, the research director at Australian Microplastics Assessment Project (AUSMAP), said scientists around the world are working to better understand how microplastics are affecting the planet.
“The big issue is we don’t know what the impacts are,” he said.
“There's plastics in pretty much every species we were looking at now.
“For a small animal, it's probably a bigger concern, because of the relative size and potential chemicals that are associated with the plastics and they can cause greater harm to those organisms.
“But having said that, we don’t know. Understanding potential human health effects from microplastics and how much is safe will be worked out in the coming decades.”
Fishermen teaming up with scientists to understand microplastics issue
Amid growing concern about the effect of microplastics on the environment, some recreational fishermen have been cooperating with scientist to better understand the problem.
Garry Chenoweth from the NSW Game Fishing Association said many of the fish caught at tournaments are donated to the CSIRO and various Australian universities so that their stomach contents can be studied.
“I would think everyone should have concern about it, and we help as best we can,” he said.
Many of the smaller plastic contents found in the ocean have been found to originate from synthetic clothing, much of which often enters the ocean during the washing process.
Once plastic enters the ocean, it mimics the appearance of natural food sources, leading seabirds and fish to consume it.
Ocean currents redistribute plastic across long distances, with the CSIRO estimating there are 14 million tonnes on the bottom of the ocean.
Social media could lead to curiosity about science
Oneminmicro said he is concerned about the impact of microplastics on the environment, not just the impact they have on humans.
“I think I can imagine the just the amount of plastic that's in the ocean,” he said.
“I just feel that it is depressing to see and know that there are animals out there that have consumed microplastic."
He has continued to learn since posting the video, and believes social media is the best platform to communicate with young people, and that entertaining videos rather than textbooks will inspire their curiosity about science.
“Maybe I'm a very optimistic person and have my head in the clouds, but I am hopeful that we can reduce our plastics use,” he said.
“If we can encourage a young scientist… you plant that seed, and then later on they finally get into uni they could be the next Einstein of cleaning up the ocean.”
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