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Microplastics hardly affect blue mussels at all

A team from the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research has studied the long-term effects.


The Kiel researchers have now published the results of what they claim is the longest laboratory experiment to date on the effects of microplastics on blue mussels in the international journal Science of the Total Environment. Contrary to widespread fears, the study shows "that blue mussels are hardly affected by microplastics in the water, even over a longer period of time", says Thea Hamm, lead author of the study. Blue mussels were particularly well suited for such studies because, on the one hand, they were widespread and, on the other, because they filter seawater to feed, inevitably ingesting microplastics contained in the water. For the study, mussels were exposed to microplastics in different concentrations for 42 weeks. Hamm used microplastics of different types and sizes, both equable round ones, such as those found in cosmetics, and uneven shaped ones, such as those produced by the decay of larger pieces. Negative effects on the mussels only occurred late in the experiment and were relatively weak. Thereby the laboratory experiment is said to indicate that microplastics in the concentrations currently found in the sea pose only a minor threat to the mussel population.

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  • (12.4.2021)
  • Photo: © Geomar / Thea Hamm

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