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Fibreglass particles from boats found in oysters and mussels

A new study by researchers at Brighton and Portsmouth universities has revealed worrying levels of fibreglass in oysters and mussels.

The study marks the first-time fibreglass or glass reinforced plastic (GRP) particles have been found entering the food chain raising environmental and health concerns.

GRP particles were detected in the soft tissues of oysters and mussels collected near an active boatyard in Chichester Harbour on the south coast of England.

“Our findings show a disturbing level of GRP contamination in marine life,” said Dr Corina Ciocan, principal lecturer in marine biology from the University of Brighton. “This study is the first of its kind to document such extensive contamination in natural bivalve populations. It’s a stark reminder of the hidden dangers in our environment.”

Creating a better ethos around end-of-life boat management is crucial

Dr Corina Ciocan

The study highlights the risks associated with GRP contamination with stationary filter feeders such as oysters and mussels susceptible to accumulating particles, which can severely impact their health.

Researchers say the ingestion of GRP can interfere with their digestive systems, leading to physiological stress and even death which not only affects marine life but could also have significant implications for human health when they are eaten.

“We’re just starting to understand the extent of fibreglass contamination,” said Professor Fay Couceiro from the University of Portsmouth.  “Our study is the first to show this level of contamination in natural bivalve populations.”

The research highlights the urgent need for better regulation and management of GRP disposal.

Dr Ciocan concluded: “We must improve public access to slipways and commercial boat maintenance facilities. Creating a better ethos around end-of-life boat management is crucial to minimise further exposure and spread of these contaminants.”

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