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UCSC scientists say microplastics in Monterey Bay could disrupt reproductive functions in seabirds and anchovies

MONTEREY, Calif. (KION-TV)- In a study conducted by University of California Santa Cruz scientists and published in Environmental Pollution, a widespread abundance of microplastics was discovered in the seawater and in the digestive tracts of anchovies and common murres, diving seabirds that eat anchovies.

“These tiny plastic particles are leaching substances that have the potential for hormonal disruption that can have cascading effects on reproductive and immune functions,” said senior author Myra Finkelstein, adjunct professor of environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz.

It was found that 58% of anchovy and 100% of murres had microplastics in their digestive tracts, according to the research study.

Other discoveries include:

  • Across all samples, fibers were the most abundant microparticle type found (78%).•
  • Microparticles recovered from 23% of common murres exhibited estrogenic activity.•
  • Raman spectroscopy categorized 57% of identifiable microparticles as plastic.

Seawater samples taken from Santa Cruz and Moss Landing showed that two microplastics were in every 1,000 liters.

“One of the main problems with macroplastics is that they’re taking the place of food. With microplastics, a major concern is the toxic compounds that may be leaching out of it,” Finkelstein said. "The next step is to see how this may be affecting the birds,” she said. “With microplastics, it seems we are finding them anywhere we look. But we need to do more work to find out what the biological impact is.”

To see the full study, click here.

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