PSU researchers finding evidence of plastics in shellfish on Ore - KPTV - FOX 12

PSU researchers finding evidence of plastics in shellfish on Oregon coast

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Researchers sampling shellfish on the Oregon coast are finding oysters and razor clams contaminated with tiny plastic particles.

Portland State University professor Elise Granek and graduate student Britta Baechler are attempting to find a benchmark of just how prevalent microplastic contamination is.

It’s early in their research, but Granek and Baechler have already found some evidence of plastic contamination in shellfish gathered on the coast.

“Whatever is in those individuals is being consumed by people. And at this point we don’t know what a sort of safe level of microplastic contamination is,” said Granek.

Granek said the most frequently found form of microplastic is microfibers from synthetic clothing. The tiny fibers can come free during a typical wash cycle, and migrate into wastewater, and eventually into rivers because screens at wastewater treatment plants aren’t small enough to catch them.

“Because plastics are not organic, bacteria aren’t going to biodegrade them. So they continue on through the system,” said Granek.

An additional concern, Granek said, is that other chemicals have a tendency of binding to microplastics, so they could be transporting bacteria, viruses, and toxins. 

Other recent studies have found microplastics containing PCBs and pesticides.

Once research can determine how prevalent microplastic contamination is, efforts can begin to attempt to curb the release of plastics into the environment.

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