Study finds microplastics in dried fish from around Asia

05/02/2022 08:42 PM
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Research team from the National Sun Yat-sen University. CNA photo May 2, 2022
Research team from the National Sun Yat-sen University. CNA photo May 2, 2022

Kaohsiung, May 2 (CNA) A recent study carried out by National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) in Kaohsiung has found microplastics in most of the batches of marine dried fish it studied from seven Asian countries, suggesting a potential health risk.

The findings were highlighted in a statement issued by the university Monday, which referred to its study titled "Occurrence of microplastics in commercial marine dried fish in Asian countries" that was published by the Journal of Hazardous Materials on Feb. 5, 2022.

The research team led by professor Hung Ching-chang (洪慶章), head of the school's College of Marine Sciences, studied 14 batches of marine dried fish from seven Asian countries to see how contaminated they were by microplastics.

It found that a type of round herring species caught along Japan's southeastern coast was the most contaminated of all the samples studied.

The NSYSU research team attributed the result to East Asian waters around Japan being hotspots for microplastics, describing them as having a microplastics concentration one order of magnitude higher than the rest of the world's oceans.

According to the study, 75.9 percent of the samples of round-herring species from Japan, known formally as Etrumeus micropus, contained microplastics.

That far outpaced the next most contaminated dried fish studied, the Pacific sandlance from China, for which 40 percent of the samples contained microplastics.

Other species highlighted were the delicate round herring from Sri Lanka (30 percent with microplastics), the shorthead anchovy from South Korea (12.5 percent), the silver-stripe round herring from Vietnam (7 percent) and general round herring species from Taiwan (3.2 percent) and Thailand (0.2 percent).

By weight, the results were somewhat closer.

One batch of the Japanese round-herring species had the highest average microplastics count per gram of dried fish at 0.56, but three of the four batches of fish from Taiwan had counts per gram ranging from 0.10 to 0.20.

Hung said the study was important because eating marine dried fish is a common habit in Asia, and the presence of microplastics poses a clear risk to consumers' health.

He said more work was needed to evaluate the actual health effects of these dried fish, but that the results could contribute to developing updated seafood safety regulations.

Meanwhile, the study also found that the most abundant type of polymer seen in the fish samples studied was polyethylene, which is often used to produce plastic bags, bottles and milk jugs, the NSYSU research team said.

According to the NSYSU, the study was supported by Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology under a project conducted by the Taiwan and Sri Lanka Marine Sciences and Technology Innovation Center.

(By Flor Wang and Tseng Yi-ning)

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