These 4 species of mussels are the most consumed in the world and all contain microplastics

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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If we eat mussels, we also ingest our own waste in the form of microplastics. This is revealed by a new study

If we eat the mussels, we also ingest our own waste in the form of microplastics. A fear that has been around for some time but which now finds new confirmation in a study conducted by Bayreuth University, according to which the 4 most consumed species in the world contain dangerous and tiny fragments of plastic.





“If you eat mussels, you eat microplastics”. This was already known to a limited extent on mussels from individual regions of the world but the new study from the University of Bayreuth, led by Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch, reveals that this statement is true globally. The team of scientists in fact carried out a large-scale analysis involving four species of mussels, often sold as food in supermarkets in 12 countries around the world.

All the samples analyzed contained microplastic particles, and the researchers detected as many as 9 different types of plastics. The most common were polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Both are plastics practically present in every object of daily life.

The species of mussels sampled were: the European blue mussel, the green mussel, the wavy venus and the Pacific clam. All sampled mussels were purchased from grocery stores. Some were farmed, others had been caught in the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Pacific, the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

Despite the provenance, the results of the research published in the journal Environmental Pollution left the scientists speechless. In all the species, coming from all the seas of the world, were present the microplastics.

To make the analyzes of mussels of different sizes comparable, one gram of meat was used as a fixed reference. According to the study, one gram of mussel meat contained between 0,13 and 2,45 particles of microplastic. Samples collected in the North Atlantic and South Pacific were the most contaminated.

The microplastics detected in the mussels were between three and 5.000 micrometers in size, that is, between 0,003 and five millimeters.


“To analyze the types of microplastics, we used so-called random forest algorithms for the first time. These allowed us to evaluate the data quickly, automatically and reliably,” explained Dr. Martin Löder, Head of the Plastics Working Group.


Mussels, spies of the pollution of the seas

Mussels are real filters of evil and as such, in addition to food particles, they also swallow microplastics. They can be considered real indicators of pollution and allow us to know the entity in their respective areas of origin.

It is no coincidence that they have also been studied in the past in relation to water contamination and the presence of microplastics. However, the results available so far can only be compared to each other to a very limited extent because different analytical methods were often used in the studies.

“Our new study represents a major advance in terms of methodology. We have combined the latest technologies and procedures in sample preparation, measurement and analysis of microplastic contamination so that we can achieve comparable results on this basis in the future. Such Methodological harmonization is an indispensable prerequisite for correctly assessing and evaluating the risks potentially deriving from the spread of microplastics in the environment “, concludes Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch.

A discovery that unfortunately does not surprise us and which once again underlines how urgent and necessary it is to limit the consumption of plastic as much as possible.

Sources of reference: University of Bayreuth, Environmental Pollution


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