Fiberglass fragments found in marine food chain for first time

Tiny fiberglass fragments, commonly used in boat construction, have been found in the marine food chain for the first time. Scientists from the universities of Portsmouth and Brighton discovered these glass shards, mere fractions of a millimeter long, in shellfish caught off England’s south coast. The sharp, needle-like fragments, known as glass reinforced plastic, had even pierced biological tissue.

Lead researcher Professor Faye Couceiro highlighted the urgent need for further study to understand the health risks for humans consuming contaminated oysters and mussels.

Fiberglass, a durable material made of glass filaments in plastic resin, degrades into fine dust that easily washes into the sea. Researchers found up to 11,220 fiberglass particles per kilogram of oysters and 2,740 per kilogram of mussels from Chichester Harbour, a popular sailing area. While most particles were in the shellfish’s stomachs and could be expelled in clean water before consumption, several hundred fragments were found in the flesh, which would be ingested by consumers.

Professor Gordon Watson of the University of Portsmouth noted that the fibers significantly impact shellfish growth and could accumulate in the food chain, affecting other organisms like fish. The study suggests the issue is widespread, not limited to areas near active boatyards.

Prof Couceiro called for proper disposal of fiberglass boats to prevent environmental contamination. She said that we need to prevent these particles from getting into the environment.