DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA — A new study from Duke University has found that microplastic fibers can cause damage to the respiratory and reproductive systems of the Japanese medaka fish.
For the study, researchers placed 27 pairs of the fish in a water tank with large amounts of suspended microplastic fibers.
On a weekly basis, scientists monitored egg production, weight and the amount of fiber that was ingested and excreted out by the medaka fish.
After 21 days, researchers examined the tissue of the Japanese medaka fish and found that those exposed to larger amounts of microplastic fibers had developed fused membranes and increased mucus production in their gills.
The microfibers had also caused damage to the epithelial cells lining the fish gills.
Female fish exposed to the microfibers had been found to produce more eggs over this period of time.
The study also found that microplastic fibers residing in fish guts may release harmful chemical coatings that could leak into the bloodstream of the fish.
Melissa Chernick, a researcher involved with the study, explained in a Duke University news release from March 16 that if wild fish swimming in the ocean damage their gills, it would make the fish less competitive while looking for food and less able to guard against potential predators in the sea.