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Micro Plastics vs Raw Sewage

Do you eat fish? If so, it’s almost certain that some of the fish you have eaten contained plastic!

A recent study by the Natural History Museum found that some 37% of the fish tested from the River Thames contained plastic whilst similar tests taken from fish in the River Clyde found 38% had eaten plastic. 

Micro Plastics

Micro plastics are particles of film below 5mm and as small as 10 nanometres. Those found in fish in the Thames estuary were predominantly nylon and polyester from washing of synthetic clothing along with wet wipes flushed into the sewage system and nylon from fishing nets.

Other sources of micro plastic are synthetic material from car tyres and road markings and whilst the use of micro plastics has been banned from cosmetics and cleaning products since 2018, they are still used in some agricultural fertilisers from where they are easily washed into our rivers and surrounding seas.

The World Health Organisation in a separate report has said “It is not possible to calculate the effect of human health of micro plastics”.

It is reasonable enough for these reports to warn us of the dangers of micro plastics, but bearing in mind the wide spread sources of micro plastic, particularly, clothing and fishing nets it’s difficult to know what actions we as individuals, or indeed the Government and the appropriate authorities can take to avoid the problem. However, we are left in no doubt these authorities are concerned.

Raw Sewage

Contrast these concerns with the problem of raw sewage also entering our rivers and water courses. For example, Thames Water alone pumps over 1 million tonnes of raw sewage into the Thames every year! In addition, there are some 18,000 licenses currently valid which allow water companies to pump raw sewage direct into our rivers when their systems are overloaded.

As a consequence, some 40% of our rivers in the UK are at some time or another polluted with raw sewage. Surprisingly, there are some 15,000 licenses which allow dumping of raw sewage directly into our surrounding seas.

Public Awareness

Public awareness of plastic pollution in the seas and oceans of the World has not become a matter of great debate but over time could change the way we live as more extreme solutions are proposed to solve the problem.

Meanwhile, we are cautioned to be aware that when eating fish we could be eating plastic. Perversely, the fact that those same fish could quite regularly be absorbing raw sewage in their diet is conveniently ignored.

We know E Coli, pathogens and parasites when ingested by humans can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps along with fever level temperatures.

As the WHO has said we don’t know the potential harm caused by absorbing micro plastics. Frankly I don’t fancy eating either but given the choice I think I would rather take my chance with the plastic!

As always should you have any thoughts on any of the items raised, I would welcome your views and meanwhile, why not join me on LinkedIn for more regular contact.




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