Mussels could serve as a global bioindicator for microplastic pollution, as the creatures don’t move and reside on the seabed where plastic ends up. And a new study from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) uncovered plastic in 76.6 percent of individual blue mussels they tested.
Reuters pointed to other surveys where researchers found microplastics in mussels near China, Belgium, Britain, Canada, and Chile. NIVA Researcher Amy Lusher told Reuters, “Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked.”
The new NIVA research found on average 1.8 pieces of microplastic in mollusks near Norway, while and mussels living in waters thought to be pristine in the Arctic actually had the greatest amount of plastic among any of the creatures tested near the Norwegian coast. Lusher said ocean currents and winds from American and Europe may be sweeping plastic north, where it might then swirl in the Arctic Ocean.
Scientists aren’t quite sure how microplastics in marine life will impact humans that consume them, but think you’d have to eat a whole lot of shellfish to be at risk. Microplastics expert and Plymouth University professor Richard Thompson told Reuters of the global discoveries, “It’s a warning signal that we need to do something about reducing the input of plastic to the ocean. It’s a cause for concern at the moment rather than an alarm story for human consumption.”