‘Plasticosis’: Researchers discover plastic-related disease in seabirds

Science “plasticosis”

Researchers Discover Plastic-Caused Disease In Seabirds

Instead of being caused by viruses or bacteria, the disease is caused by small pieces of plastic that lead to inflammation in the digestive tract. Researchers assume that this diagnosis is only “the tip of the iceberg”.

BA team of researchers has discovered a new disease specifically caused by plastic parts in certain seabirds. The disease, known as “plasticosis” (English original: “plasticosis”), has been identified for the first time, but this may only be “the tip of the iceberg”, said the London Natural History Museum. Pale-footed shearwaters from Australia’s Lord Howe Island were studied.

The disease is caused by small pieces of plastic instead of viruses or bacteria inflammation in the digestive tract, the museum says. Over time, such prolonged and repeated inflammation would lead to scarring and tissue deformation, which in turn would affect the animals’ growth, digestion and survival, the researchers write. In the worst case, the disease can cause some chicks to die birds starve because their stomachs fill up with indigestible plastic.

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Curator and bird expert Alex Bond, who published his findings with colleagues in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, said in a statement from the museum: “It is the first time that stomach tissue has been examined in this way and it can be shown that that eating plastic can severely damage the digestive system of these birds.” The disease is thought to occur in other species as well. Impacts on human health are also possible.

Bond and his colleagues have been studying seabirds on Australia’s Lord Howe Island, some 600 kilometers off the coast of the continent, for the past few years.

They also found that the local pale-footed shearwaters are among the most plastic-contaminated birds in the world. They mistake plastic parts for food and eat them consciously. This also led the team to look more closely at the effects on the digestive tract.

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