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Seas of Plastic - PlasticsFatE partner Gaiker explains hazards on TV

PlasticsFatE partner Alberto Katsumitis from Gaiker recently featured on the Spanish EITB TV programme Teknopolis, in which he was invited to provide expert input in relation to the recent environmental disaster in which up to six containers fell from the Liberian-flagged Toconao some 80km off the northern Portuguese coast.


One of these contained at least 26,000kg of pellets, while others carried cargoes of clingfilm, tyres and tomato sauce, resulting in the declaration of an environmental emergency: dozens of coastal communities have seen tides of white pellets being washed up following the incident, and millions of these tiny plastic pellets - known as 'nurdles' have been washing up on the shores of northern Spain.



Speaking from Gaiker, PlasticsFatE partner Alberto Katsumitis described how plastic particles are ubiquitous in our environment and how the effects of micro and nanoplastics on human health are being investigated by the PlasticsFatE project. Alberto commented on how little is known about the environmental and health impacts of nanoplastics in particular, and the size of the problem is exacerbated if the particles have additives, or are contaminated by chemicals, or have become vehicles for microorganisms or bacteria.


A BBC report states: “Authorities say the pellets, which are made of PET plastic, are non-toxic. Still, there are fears the sheer scale of pollution may endanger wildlife, the environment and pose a risk to the fishing industry in the area. The nurdles can be ingested by animals and then contribute to plastic pollution in the food chain, including for humans. PET is non-biodegradable and any pellets that are not cleaned up will remain in the environment for centuries.”


“These little balls of plastic are an environmental problem because fish confuse them with fish eggs and eat them and they enter the food chain … and end up on our dinner tables,” Cristobal López, spokesperson for the Spanish environmental group Ecologistas en Acción, told The Associated Press from a beach in Galicia.

“The contamination of the oceans and ecosystems with plastics is one of the biggest problems faced by humanity,” Spain’s Minister for the Environment, Teresa Ribera, said.


Despite the claims that they are non-toxic, research into the hazards that they may present as a result of additive or bacterial contamination – such as the investigations undertaken by Gaiker and PlasticsFatE -  are essential to ascertain this.


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