The dangerous health hazard of plastic on animals

Tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals and turtles are killed every year from plastic bag litter in the marine environment as they often mistake plastic bags for food such as jellyfish. Plastic bags, once ingested, cannot be digested or passed by an animal so it stays in the gut. Plastic in an animal’s gut can prevent food digestion and can lead to a very slow and painful death

The dangerous health hazard of plastic on animals
Image courtesy: National Geographic

While scientist are still unearthing health hazards due to plastic on human, many reports of animals deaths due to plastic consumption are known now. Humans are affected through the food chain when they eat animals that have consumed plastic.

Plastic pollution has been described as being highly detrimental to large marine mammals. Some marine species, with large portion of plastic in their stomach were found many a times. Animals starve, as plastic blocks their digestive track. They also get entangled in plastic products which blocks their way.

Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. Currently, it is estimated that there are 100 million tons of plastic in oceans around the world.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, a non-profit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., more than half of the world’s plastic waste can be found in five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Entanglement in plastic debris is responsible for death of many marine animals.  It has been estimated that over 400,000 marine mammals perish annually due to plastic pollution in oceans. Transfer of plastic to prey is also a major problem in all types of animals.

It is not just marine animals that are affected but even birds are also affected by the same. Seabirds often mistake trash floating on the ocean’s surface as prey. Their reproductive system, digestion system and hormone everything gets affected with the consumption of plastic.

Similar to humans, animals exposed to plasticizers can experience developmental defects. Specifically, sheep have been found to have lower birth weights when prenatally exposed to bisphenol A. Exposure to BPA can shorten the distance between the eyes of a tadpole. It can also stall development in frogs and can result in a decrease in body length. In different species of fish, exposure can stall egg hatching and result in a decrease in body weight, tail length, and body length.

Aditya Gurav, a student from Ferguson college, Pune, who studies environment, said, “We humans should understand the harm as it is not just restricted to animals. Through food chain it gets carried to human beings also.”

Scientists have found microplastics in 114 aquatic species, and more than half of those end up on our dinner plates.

Also read: Humans are causing cancer in animals through plastic waste, reveals study