Human debris in the shape of plastic and other material has been found in an overwhelming number of mussel samples from British waters as well as those already in the supermarket, according to research from the University of Hull and Brunel University.
Publishing their work in the journal Environmental Pollution, the team of scientists found not only microplastics in the mussels but also fibers such as cotton and rayon. However, little is known about the impact of consuming mussels containing such material.
The research was conducted on mussels gathered from eight different coastlines and mussels purchased from eight unnamed grocery stores. According to the research, for every 100 g of mussels consumed, 70 pieces of almost undetectable debris were also consumed.
Additionally, the highest concentration of debris was found in the supermarket mussels, of both the cooked and frozen varieties, while wild mussels had higher concentrations of debris than the farmed mussels.
"It is becoming increasingly evident that global contamination of the marine environment by microplastic is impacting wildlife and its entry into the food chain is providing a pathway for the waste that we dispose of to be returned to us through our diet," said Professor Jeanette Rotchell from Hull University.
Professor Rotchell continued, "This study provides further evidence of this route of exposure and we now need to understand the possible implications of digesting these very small levels. Chances are that these have no implications, but none the less, there is not enough data out there to say there is no risk. We still need to do the studies and show that is the case."
According to environmental analyst Roger Harrabin: "Knowing that you might be eating tiny strands of someone else's underwear will doubtless put off many people from a dish of Moules Mariniere. But the very durability that makes plastic fibers so persistent in the environment is the same factor that makes us pass plastic through our bodies without absorbing it. That's what makes the researchers so confident that it's pretty unlikely eating mussels will do us any harm.”
"If you are really worried about this sort of thing, you could go vegan organic, but you would still be breathing in plastic particles through the air and drinking it in water."