Tiny plastic shards are tearing through the digestive tracts of wild birds and causing permanent scarring
AdvertisementDespite the fact that humans assume an insurmountable amount of pride in being the smartest things to ever trod Earth, the fact still remains that we have to manufacture labels that advise against ingesting and choking on small pieces of plastic. And some good the stern warning did; we end up consuming one lego brick worth of plastics monthly anyway, according to a 2019 WWF International study.
These are worrying statistics, sure. But it still remains that we (well, most of us) at least have the conscience to try not to ingest these plastics voluntarily. But what about birds and other animals frighteningly unaware of what "polymers" or "
Not too great, it turns out. Scientists have discovered that wild birds have been consuming an inordinate amount of plastics, birthing a new disease plaguing their stomachs. Termed 'Plasticosis', the small plastic pieces end up scarring their proventriculus organ – the first part of a bird's stomach.
We've known that birds and animals consume an excessive amount of plastics throughout their lifespans. A stroll through most Indian streets will almost always reveal some dog, cat or cow rummaging through garbage bags, looking for any hints of their next meal.
This is the first time we've noticed the effect this can have on the birds' digestive systems, however, and was revealed when Australian and UK scientists saw widespread scarring in flesh-footed
"While these birds can look healthy on the outside, they're not doing well on the inside," remorses Dr Alex Bond, co-author of the study. "This study is the first time that stomach tissue has been investigated in this way and shows that plastic consumption can cause serious damage to these birds'
Plasticosis breaks down the tubular glands (found in the lining of the large intestine) and leaves the birds extremely vulnerable to parasites and a compromised immune system. This scarring was observed only due to plastics, however. Inorganic items such as pumice stones, which birds are known to consume, had no such effect.
While plasticosis has only been identified in the one bird species so far, the researchers expressed concern that it might be afflicting vastly more species as well due to the extensive scale of worldwide
The world's oceans contain an estimated 30 million tonnes of plastic pollution, which filter into food systems. Recently, we've discovered microplastics floating around in human lungs, blood and other tissues, and their ramifications could be as deadly as it sounds. The need of the hour to mitigate plastic pollution is now.
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