Though seafood has many health benefits, researchers have determined that tiny plastics ingested by sea animals reach our plates. And a new study finds that one type of shellfish has the highest level of microplastic contamination among seafood: mollusks.
Mussels, oysters, and scallops contain up to 10.5 microplastics per gram (MPs/g), according to the findings. A team led by researchers from the Hull York Medical School and the University of Hull analyzed more than 50 studies published within the last six years as they investigated worldwide levels of microplastic contamination in seafood. (For more on eating clean, here are The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.)
Humans consume mollusks in their entirety, unlike fish, which are consumed only in parts. Thus, there's a higher risk of ingesting tiny pieces of plastic when you consume mollusks, especially when they come from areas which are more heavily polluted by plastics.
"No-one yet fully understands the full impact of microplastics on the human body, but early evidence from other studies suggest they do cause harm," Evangelos Danopoulos, one of the authors of the study, says. "Microplastics have been found in various parts of organisms such as the intestines and the liver. Seafood species like oysters, mussels, and scallops are consumed whole, whereas in larger fish and mammals only parts are consumed. Therefore, understanding the microplastic contamination of specific body parts—and their consumption by humans—is key."
Microplastics are smaller than 5 millimeters in length—around the size of a sesame seed—and they come from a variety of sources like health and beauty products, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Consuming other protein sources is one way to avoid consuming these tiny plastics. Here are 33 Easy Plant-Based Recipes Even Carnivores Will Love.
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