Scientists have found plastic microfibres in the faeces of fur seals living in a colony on a remote island northwest Chile.
They found tiny plastic fragments – smaller than one millimetre, in the waste of the seals – who live on Guafo Island, which is uninhabited by humans and used as a seal breeding ground.
The scientists, Diego Joaquín Perez-Venegas and Galbán-Malagón from Andrés Bello National University, told the website Live Science they scooped up faeces from the seals and investigated the samples in a lab to spot microplastics so tiny they are invisible to the naked eye.
Of the 51 samples they inspected, 67 per cent contained plastics.
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The plastic is thought to have come from synthetic fabrics, abandoned fishing nets, and the breakdown of other everyday items such as plastic bags. As predators, the seals likely ingested microplastics from other species.
In a separate report last month, scientists tested 39 different salt brands from 16 countries and found that the majority – 90 per cent – contained microplastics. The report, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that of the types of salt tested, sea salt, lake salt and rock salts had the highest levels of plastic contamination.
Microplastics were also found in samples of human faeces by scientists for the first time in a recent study.
Scientists from the Federal Environment Agency and the Medical University of Vienna studied the bowel habits of eight people aged 33-65 from the United Kingdom, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Japan and Austria.
They found plastic in every single poo sample, detecting an average of 20 microplastic particles per 10 grams of poo.