Scallops Can Accumulate Billions of Plastic Particles in Just Hours

As more plastic continues to make its way into marine ecosystems, more questions are being raised about how it’s impacting wildlife, and in turn, us as it makes its way through the food chain.

Scientists have already seen how microplastics and nanoparticles are consumed by marine species, but as Discover Magazine notes, other studies have relied on fluorescent dye to tag plastic, so in order for it to show up they have to use higher concentrations of plastic.

But researchers in the UK and Canada wanted to see the impact at a level that’s actually found in the ocean and their conclusion, which was just published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, isn’t good.

For the study, they made their own polystyrene nanoparticles in a lab that were carbon-radiolabeled so that they that could be traced in the bodies of great scallops, which are found mainly in the Atlantic.

They found that within just six hours, billions of particles that were 250 nm, or about 0.000025 mm, had become lodged in the intestines of scallops, while even smaller pieces had made their way into other body parts, including their kidneys, gonads, muscles and gills.

Even after the scallops had been move back into clean water, it took weeks for them to expel all of the nanoparticles.

“This is a ground breaking study, in terms of both the scientific approach and the findings. We only exposed the scallops to nanoparticles for a few hours and, despite them being transferred to clean conditions, traces were still present several weeks later. Understanding the dynamics of nanoparticle uptake and release, as well as their distribution in body tissues, is essential if we are to understand any potential effects on organisms. A key next step will be to use this approach to guide research investigating any potential effects of nanoparticles and in particular to consider the consequences of longer term exposures,” said Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Head of the University of Plymouth’s  International Marine Litter Research Unit.

Researchers hope to build on this work to better understand the impact long-term exposure is having, but hopefully it will also serve as a reminder about the impact our actions are having on the environment. As more plastic is produced and makes its way into marine ecosystems, it’s expected to continue to break down into these tiny particles that are going to continue to make their way through the food chain posing risks to both wildlife and us.

“Understanding whether plastic particles are absorbed across biological membranes and accumulate within internal organs is critical for assessing the risk these particles pose to both organism and human health,” said Ted Henry, Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Heriot-Watt University.

Photo credit: Getty Images


bob Petermann
bob P2 days ago

This is a worthy research project, thanks for sharing

Lorrie O
Lorrie O2 months ago

The Developer: plastic billionaire. The Developer development: the red, plastic hotel on Illinois Avenue. Monopoly is not the game, yet there is the Plan Ned Pa rent hood pa rent rent to pay: one Thousand (Island Park and Cottage) United States of America DOLLar. The Guest is not God. God is not the Guest in the red plastic hotel on Illinois Avenue, yet there is the Pa rent hood pa rent rent to pay. God is not the Guest. The GUESS is: "God?" Jeopardy television game: A before Q. Spanish Inquisition: A before Q. Category: 2000. The A: 86.The Spanish Inquisition Guess: "God?" Hades. ProNUNciation: "80", ae 1 5=6 word. Hades: 6, and is a God word, a Creator and Guru word. The Guess is: "God?"

Kerri D
Kerri D2 months ago


Marguerite White
Marguerite White2 months ago

I care about what plastic and rubbish is doing to animals and the earth,I pick up rubbish plastic and plasstic bottle top and bags around lakes in the park but i cannot do it everywhere or everyday,everyone could throw plastic in proper bins and dispose responsibly but some do not care where they throw there crap,also pick rubbish up and it helps,fine anyone throwing rubbish on the ground as I hate animals have to suffer for what people throw on the ground,yesterday I picked up on a path towards a lake and around the one path and bushes 6 x 2ltr empty plastic bottles of water 3 vodka glass bottles 5 beer cans several plastic bottle caps where swans were eating pieces of plastic that's been rotting.this is just on one path leading from one lake to the other about 100 yards away.It makes me sick.

heather g
heather g2 months ago

Research EDWARD BURTYNSKY's work and you'll see what we've done to our planet.
There's lots more online

HEIKKI R2 months ago

thank you

Suzanne L
Suzanne L2 months ago

We've been hearing and reading about the plastic in the marine environment and marine life for at least a decade. Is anyone trying to collect it and get it out?

Marija M
Marija M2 months ago

tks for sharing

Nita L
Nita L2 months ago

Thank you.

Ruth S
Ruth S2 months ago