Is it true that microplastics in mussels will harm humans? To answer this and a few other question, a small team of very young researchers entered a nationwide contest. Their topic won them a five day research trip on ALDEBARAN, a professional research sailing yacht.
In summer 2017, my eldest daughter will move from primary school to grammar school. She very well knows which grammar school she wants to attend (and, luckily, we agree). I was quite surprised to find out that some kids from her school-to-be took part in a contest organised by “Deutsche Meeresstiftung” (German Sea Foundation). Their topic: research the concentration of microplastics in the North Sea. In addition, do microplastics in mussels change the mussels’ ability to filter sea water? And how many pieces of microplastics can actually be found in mussels?
Brief background info on “Deutsche Meeresstiftung”
One of the activities the “Deutsche Meeresstiftung” supports is a contest where teams of potential new researchers can apply for a summer holiday research week. The planned research topic needs to have scientific background related to oceans and environmental issues. Each year, a couple of teams get selected by the jury to fulfil their early researcher dreams. At the same time, they check out some pressing environmental topics.
Microplastics in mussels – dangerous for humans?
The young researchers have spent five days on ALDEBARAN. They cruised the Elbe from Hamburg towards the North Sea. During their research week, they took samples directly from the water and dug deep into the North Sea intertidal mudflats. They also collected – no surprise here – lots of mussels.
Despite knowing what the job of mussels is, I love eating them. So, not only was the team doing the research on microplastics in mussels from our hometown Ahrensburg, they also covered a topic that could potentially save my life (well…).
The young team will now analyse the samples. Professional scientists from the Alfred-Wegener-Institut (AWI) will support and advise them. Poor mussels – after having been picked up they got quick-frozen. Not enough of that, now they will be dissected and examined under a so-called polarising microscope.
Results of the research – something I will follow up
Some of the questions I look forward to getting an answer to are:
– Mussels filter 2-3 litres of sea water per hour (yes!). How much of all the waste in water do they manage to get rid of again? And how much stays inside (not only microplastics, also heavy metal)?
– Do microplastics harm the mussels to such an extent that they can die?
– Will microplastics in mussels be dangerous for humans?
Unfortunately, I was not able to find the results of that research yet.
“Yet” meaning: I have contacted the school as well as AWI to get more information. I hope to receive a reply from at least one of them once the new year is properly up and running.
This is just one of a million…
…topics that I could write about regarding microplastics, plastic waste in oceans, effects on wildlife as well as danger for humans caused by marine debris.
Microplastics have a major impact on ocean life. In another article I have published some basic facts regarding microplastics.
I have selected this topic here as I was very positively surprised to find that kids do research on microplastics. Also here in Ahrensburg, at a school better known for its fantastic school orchestra.
Although quite often I tend to think otherwise, young folks DO care about nature, environment and the oceans.
Do you have a similar impression, have the young ones positively surprised you as well?
I’d love to get your worldwide views and responses – thank you!