Friday March 3, 2023

Chesapeake Bay Magazine

Microplastic fragments are becoming an increasing environmental problem in our waterways. They are the tiny particles that weathering creates from Styrofoam cups and plastic bottles, particles that make their way into the Chesapeake Bay. But new research finds their impact on marine life goes even deeper than we thought.

Toxins like microplastics work slowly in fish. But when combined with something like a virus, they can be lethal. A new study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment by toxicologists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) saw it happen up close. Their lab research showed that certain types of microplastic fragments can cause enough damage to delicate structures like gill membranes to allow viruses to enter more easily. 

The lead author, Dr. Meredith Evans Seeley, and several co-authors from VIMS and the College of William & Mary, wondered if the IHN virus, common in salmon and trout farms, would cause more fish to die in water containing plastic fragments than in water containing fragments of natural material like decayed marsh grass. 

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