Flying insects could carry microplastics through air, study finds

Flying insects are contaminating new environments by eating microplastics in polluted waters and carrying th...

Posted: Sep 19, 2018 3:03 PM
Updated: Sep 19, 2018 3:03 PM

Flying insects are contaminating new environments by eating microplastics in polluted waters and carrying them through the air, a new study has found.

UK researchers found that microplastics -- pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters in size -- remain in the bodies of mosquitoes and other waterborne insects even after they become flying adults.

Animals

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Chemical industry and chemicals

Insects and arachnids

Life forms

Mosquitoes

Plastics

The findings mean that pollution from plastics being dumped into our oceans is being carried into the air, and raises concerns that birds and other creatures that eat the insects are also being contaminated.

The team from the University of Reading in England and Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, inserted two minuscule pieces of polystyrene, each weighing just over one gram per cubic centimeter, into young mosquitoes and observed the insects throughout their life cycles.

They found that the particles did not disappear from the mosquitoes' systems after the insects moved between life stages and started to fly, and were present inside the fully formed insects.

"The transfer of microplastics to the adults represents a potential aerial pathway to contamination of new environments," the authors wrote in the study.

"Thus, any organism that feeds on terrestrial life phases of freshwater insects could be impacted by MPs found in aquatic ecosystems," they added, using an abbreviation for microplastics. Freshwater insects such as mosquitoes are eaten by birds, amphibians, insects and fish, according to the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States.

More than 150 million tons of plastic are floating in the world's oceans, with an additional eight million tons entering every year, according to the World Economic Forum.

Plastic can entangle or be ingested by fish, birds and marine mammals, and can damage marine ecosystems such as coral reefs.

"This disturbing study raises real concerns about the prevalence of plastic pollution: it really is present everywhere, not just the marine environment," said plastic pollution campaigner Emma Priestland from the charity Friends of the Earth.

"Knowing that plastic can be transferred from the larval stage to the adult mosquito, which then serves as food to a multitude of larger animals, highlights the urgency with which we need to drastically reduce our plastic consumption," Priestland added.

A study from 2015 estimated that the total amount of floating plastic in the oceans could triple by 2025.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 350070

Reported Deaths: 7590
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24512449
DeSoto23513283
Harrison21172335
Rankin15798293
Jackson15735254
Madison11171227
Lee10903180
Jones9223169
Forrest9027163
Lauderdale8087244
Lamar724890
Lowndes7199152
Lafayette6631125
Washington5661140
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Oktibbeha503198
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Warren4817128
Panola4812112
Marshall4739106
Pontotoc452473
Hancock440388
Neshoba4401181
Union438979
Monroe4369138
Lincoln4228116
Pike3739114
Leflore3676125
Alcorn355374
Tate354988
Sunflower351094
Adams347490
Scott346677
Yazoo342977
Copiah330869
Simpson327191
Itawamba317281
Coahoma315685
Tippah312869
Prentiss302563
Covington302384
Marion289882
Leake288676
Wayne280945
George277351
Grenada272188
Newton266864
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Winston238084
Stone235338
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Attala228674
Chickasaw221460
Holmes202574
Clay201954
Clarke189580
Tallahatchie185642
Calhoun183232
Smith183036
Yalobusha173641
Walthall150449
Lawrence145426
Greene141935
Amite139144
Noxubee137235
Perry136138
Montgomery133944
Carroll127031
Webster124332
Jefferson Davis119834
Tunica116127
Benton107825
Claiborne105931
Kemper104429
Humphreys102333
Franklin88424
Quitman86319
Choctaw83119
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson72228
Sharkey51918
Issaquena1746
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 592417

Reported Deaths: 11542
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson861091591
Mobile49771865
Madison37714533
Shelby27501259
Tuscaloosa27344465
Montgomery26343628
Baldwin25860329
Lee17336181
Calhoun15498334
Morgan15225291
Etowah15060370
Marshall13198236
Houston12191293
Elmore10977219
St. Clair10852252
Limestone10816158
Cullman10610206
Lauderdale10305254
DeKalb9594192
Talladega9005188
Walker7840288
Autauga7615114
Jackson7431117
Blount7417139
Colbert6752142
Coffee6443132
Dale5723117
Russell482243
Chilton4810117
Covington4804125
Franklin462781
Tallapoosa4571156
Escambia451083
Chambers3987125
Dallas3751163
Clarke372263
Marion3470107
Pike334079
Lawrence3277100
Winston300773
Bibb292865
Geneva288383
Marengo262967
Barbour253761
Pickens247762
Butler242472
Hale236778
Fayette228165
Henry216545
Monroe204541
Randolph202844
Cherokee200748
Washington186839
Macon171552
Crenshaw170658
Clay167159
Cleburne161845
Lamar151938
Lowndes146255
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa119529
Perry111228
Sumter110633
Greene99337
Choctaw64425
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