Researchers from Tel Aviv University reported presence of plastic additives in Eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea marine life
A team of researchers led by Prof. Noa Shenkar of the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv Universityâ€™s (TAU) Faculty of Life Sciences and The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History found that microplastics are present in solitary ascidians all along the Israeli coastline. Ascidians are sac-like marine invertebrate filter feeders. The team also found the presence of plastic additives (plasticizers) in ascidians. The research was conducted in collaboration with Prof. Dror Avisar, Head of the Water Research Center at TAU's Faculty of Exact Sciences, and Aviv Kaplan, a postgraduate student in Prof. Avisar's TAU laboratory.
Gal Vered, co-author of the study and a PhD student in Prof. Shenkar's laboratory at TAU stated that the research was a leading example that examined plastic additive contamination in marine organisms in the Eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea. Solitary ascidians are efficient filter feeders and are excellent specimens of the state of pollution that affects several other marine organisms. The team found evidence of microplastics and plastic additives in ascidians even in protected beaches. Moreover, the team discovered varying levels of these pollutants at every sampling site. According to Prof. Shenkar such high level of pollution is a direct result of human use of plastic and plastic bags and bulky plastic products floating in the sea are the major problem. However, the fragmentation of these products into small particles is a major concern as these micro plastics are ingested by several organisms and are found even in the deepest zones in the ocean.
The team developed a new technique for testing for additives in marine life. It is a chemical analysis method that can be used on a variety of soft-tissue marine organisms. The method can allow researchers to extract phthalates from organism tissues without contracting any background contamination due to laboratory equipment. The team is focused on preparing the results for policymakers that are engaged in preventing further damage to the Mediterranean coastline. The research was published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin on December 26, 2018.
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