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Toxic metals entering water, food via trashed plastics: SFU study


BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – Most people know throwing plastic away is harmful to the environment, but new research out of SFU shows it may be even more dangerous than we thought.

Plastics might actually be adding toxic metals to our waterways.

After picking up over 150 plastic trash samples on nine beaches in the Burrard Inlet and bathing them in a weak acid, researchers found metals including cadmium, zinc, copper, and lead had bonded themselves to the plastics and made their way into the water.

“These plastics are on the beach, they not just sitting there idly by doing nothing, they’re very active in interacting with the system around them. In this case, they’re serving as a very effective means of providing metals an entry into our coastal food webs,” says Study lead and biological sciences professor Leah Bendell

She explains when you throw away a plastic container or toy, it’s life isn’t over by a long shot.

“Something as innocuous as a child’s toy like a shovel that’s left behind will eventually absorb metal, fractionate, and potentially end up in food webs,” says Bendell.

That means they can accumulate in the bodies of animals that eat plastics–animals that could eventually end up on our plates.

“And that’s how dynamic they are. We can do something about this, and that means being absolutely vigilant and pick up and make sure that nothings left behind and everything’s completely recycled.”

She encourages to ditch plastics in favour of more eco-friendly materials like hemp and bamboo.