The Scope

Video: The moment plastic enters the marine food chain

A scientist has filmed plankton ingesting plastic microfibre, that can be passed up the food chain and become toxic to humans.

One of the biggest global environmental problems right now is that millions of tons of plastic waste are being dumped in our oceans. Plastics take thousands of years to decay and marine animals and birds that ingest these materials often get intoxicated and die. But these plastics also pose a significant threat to human health as they are passed up the food chain.

Plastics contain lead, cadmium, and mercury that are toxic to humans and these toxins have already been found in fish in the ocean. Some plastic also contain diethylhexyl phthalate, which is a carcinogen. Many toxins in plastics are directly linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems and childhood developmental issues. Plastics also act like sponges and soak up other toxins that might be floating in the ocean and carry them through the food chain as well.

A scientist has now filmed one exact moment when plastic in the ocean enters the food chain. Dr Richard Kirby who studies planktons has recorded a tiny arrow worm ingesting plastic microfibre. Speaking to the BBC, Kirby observed how the fibre makes a loop inside the animals body and blocks anything from moving down the animals gut below its head. He said that although this is the first time the action has been filmed, the sight of plankton ingested plastic is disturbingly common.

Researchers have documented the growth of islands of plastic in the middle of oceans and conducted post-mortems on whales, seals and birds to find large plastic bags and bottles in their stomachs. But a large part of plastic pollution is in the form of microplastics – either particles left behind in the ocean when larger plastic materials break down over time or from tiny objects like microbeads from shower gels that get flushed into water bodies. The United Nations estimates that there are about 51 trillion particles of microplastic are in the world’s seas and oceans.

Other researchers have also demonstrated that zooplankton do indeed ingest microbeads, that the microbeads ingest in their digestive tracts giving chemicals present in the microbeads plenty of time to enter the tissues of animals and, subsequently enter the systems of larger animals that consume them.

Play
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Snippets of wisdom on the health care industry by Dr. Kevin Lofton

His sessions stressed on the importance of patient centric healthcare.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit 2017, Dr Kevin Lofton, CEO Catholic Health Initiatives, spoke on the need to focus on patient experience, the role of the leader and shared some ideas from the practices of his own hospital chain. Here are some snippets from Dr Lofton’s presentation that will provide some food for thought. The Bringing Health to Life content hub contains his and many other insights and best practices for healthcare delivery.

The two kinds of willing patients

During the summit, a consensus emerged that the health care industry needs to learn customer centricity from other industries. However, the health care industry is unique in several ways and one of the fundamental differences is the nature of its customer. Dr Lofton spoke about how the customer i.e. the patient in the health care industry is different by way of motivation. He reminded the gathering that nobody willingly seeks out a doctor.

Play

The paradigm shift needed in health care

Dr Lofton emphasised that patient centricity needs to become a part of the very philosophy of a health care facility, a philosophy that drives every action and motivates every employee in the organisation. He described this revaluation of purpose as a paradigm shift. Dr Lofton spoke about how patient centricity starts much before the patient walks into the hospital, that the patient’s tryst with the health care system starts before a visit to the doctor is warranted. In this clip, Dr Lofton provides an example of one such paradigm shift for health care providers.

Play

At the 2017 Hospital Leadership Summit, Dr Lofton shared several such insights from his experience in the US health care system. He emphasised especially on the need of empathy alongside clinical skill among health care providers.

For more insights and best practices for healthcare delivery, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.