Health

Seabird eggs contaminated with plastic additives – study

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erring gull eggs have been found to be contaminated with chemical additives used in plastic production, researchers said.

A study looked for evidence of phthalates – a group of chemicals added to plastics to keep them flexible – in newly laid herring gull eggs.

The research by the universities of Exeter and Queensland found up to six types of phthalate per egg.

The chemicals function as pro-oxidants – potentially causing oxidative stress that can damage cells.

Unfortunately, our findings suggest that mothers are inadvertently passing on phthalates and products of lipid damage

Professor Jon Blount, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall said: “Herring gull mothers pass on vital nutrients to their offspring via their eggs.

“This includes lipids that nourish developing embryos, and vitamin E, which helps to protect chicks from oxidative stress that can occur during development and at hatching.

“Unfortunately, our findings suggest that mothers are inadvertently passing on phthalates and products of lipid damage – and eggs with higher phthalate contamination also contained greater amounts of lipid damage and less vitamin E.”

The researchers say the impact of their findings on developing chicks is not yet known, and further research is needed.

They collected 13 herring gulls eggs from sites in Cornwall and all 13 were found to contain phthalates.

Phthalates – which are used in most plastic products and readily leech out – can build up in living organisms by becoming concentrated in fatty tissues.

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