California whales eat 10 million pieces of microplastic per day

Whales are particularly at risk of ingesting microplastics due to their filtering behavior, immense prey consumption, and habitat overlap with polluted regions

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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California whales eat 10 million pieces of microplastic per day

Whales off the coast of California ingest up to 10 million pieces of microplastics per day, according to scientists from Stanford University and California State University, published in Nature. According to the study authors, whales feed mainly at depths of 50-250 meters, where most of the microplastics are found.

Based on the measurements, the scientists estimated that blue whales could consume around 10 million pieces of microplastic per day, while humpback whales could ingest up to four million shards every day. Whales are particularly at risk of ingesting microplastics due to their filtering behavior, immense prey consumption, and habitat overlap with polluted regions.

Both categories of microplastics have been found to persist in the environment in large quantities, especially in marine and aquatic ecosystems.

California whales eat 10 million pieces of microplastic per day

This is because plastic deforms but does not break for many years, it can be ingested and accumulated in the body and tissues of many organisms.

The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment has not yet been studied in depth, especially due to the difficulty of analyzing a mixture of various types of more or less inert plastics. 77% of the blood of people tested by researchers at the Vrije University of Amsterdam in 2022 was found to contain microplastics as they can travel in the body and deposit in organs.

Microplastics pose a serious threat to small marine living beings, which tend to feed on them, mistaking them for plankton. These minor organisms are in turn inserted into the food chain and ingested by larger living beings and their predators.

The chain can continue until it reaches our tables. Controlling the release of these plastics into the environment therefore means safeguarding marine fauna. Many marine animals such as seagulls or seals have ingested microplastics, affecting health.

Microplastics come from different sources: they are found massively in products such as cosmetics, personal care and household products, in building materials, in industries and in agriculture. Often in cosmetics, microplastics make up up to 90% of the total weight of the product, as in the case of skin exfoliants. Tire wear also produces microplastics.