A study carried out by National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung has found microplastics in most batches of dried fish it studied from seven Asian countries, suggesting a potential health risk.
The study, titled “Occurrence of microplastics in commercial marine dried fish in Asian countries,” was published by the Journal of Hazardous Materials on Feb. 5.
The findings were highlighted in a statement issued by the university on Monday.
The research team led by professor Hung Ching-chang (洪慶章), head of the school’s College of Marine Sciences, studied 14 batches of dried fish to examine if they were contaminated by microplastics.
It found that a type of round herring species caught off Japan’s southeastern coast was the most contaminated of all the samples.
The team attributed the results to East Asian waters around Japan being hotspots for microplastics, with a concentration one order of magnitude higher than the rest of the world’s oceans.
The study found that 75.9 percent of the samples of round herring from Japan, known formally as Etrumeus micropus, contained microplastics.
That far outpaced the next most contaminated dried fish studied, the Pacific sand lance from China, for which 40 percent of the samples contained microplastics.
Other species studied were the delicate round herring from Sri Lanka, with 30 percent microplastics; the shorthead anchovy from South Korea, at 12.5 percent; the silver-stripe round herring from Vietnam, at 7 percent; and round herring species from Taiwan, at 3.2 percent, and Thailand, at 0.2 percent.
The gap in the comparisons narrows when looking at the microplastics by weight.
One batch of Japanese round herring had the highest average microplastics count per gram of dried fish at 0.56, while three of the four batches of fish from Taiwan had counts per gram ranging from 0.10 to 0.20.
Dried fish is a common food in Asia, and the presence of microplastics poses a risk to consumers’ health, Hung said when speaking to the study’s importance.
The results could contribute to developing updated seafood safety regulations, Hung said, adding that more study is needed to evaluate the health effects of microplastics in dried fish.
The study also found that the most abundant type of polymer in the fish samples was polyethylene, which is often used to produce plastic bags, bottles and milk jugs.
The study was supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology under a project conducted by the Taiwan and Sri Lanka Marine Sciences and Technology Innovation Center.
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