94,000 microplastic particles per second in Thames; 94,000 microplastic particles flow through the water every second in some parts of the River Thames.

Katharine Rowley, postgraduate student at Royal Holloway has found, who with assistance from the Zoological Society of London and the Natural History Museum found microplastics in high levels are impacting the river, seriously affecting its habitats, inhabitants, water column and shoreline.

Her study highlights the “grave need for the reduction of plastic input into the freshwater environment” and found 93.5% of microplastics in the water column were most likely formed from larger plastic items such as food packaging breaking down.

Ms Rowley commented: “Our study provides baseline data for microplastic contamination in the River Thames water column. Globally, in comparison to published estimates of microplastic contamination in marine and freshwater environments, the River Thames contains very high levels of this pollutant, potentially a major input to the North Sea.

“With the potential threats of plastic pollution to both human and ecosystem health, it is of great importance that the input of plastic into marine and freshwater environments is reduced.”

Postgraduate students Alex McGoran and Katherine McCoy in separate studies, all from the Department of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, highlight further damage – the former found that two species of crab are ingesting microplastics, the native shore crab and the invasive Chinese mitten crab that live in the river, which could reduce the urge to feed and leave the animals with less energy for reproduction and growth.

Katherine McCoy, in another research project, studied wet wipes, “flushable” and “non-flushable” as a source of plastic pollution in the River Thames and investigated the environmental impacts they have on the invasive Asian clam.

Upstream from Hammersmith Bridge, she found wet wipes found in sewage were building up in the river, creating large ‘wet wipe reef’s where crab populations could not survive.

94,000 microplastic particles per second in Thames

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