A new report seeks to predict the risk of plastics to any species, and show how much plastic pollution is moving into oceans and rivers and then into food chains.

The research, carried out by Prof Isabelle Durance and colleagues at Cardiff University, has been published in Nature Communications. They painstakingly trawled through published data to examine records of plastic found inside more than 2,000 marine and freshwater species, including mammals, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, from tiny fish larvae up to ten-metre-long whales. This included such oddities as a hosepipe in a sperm whale, plastic banana bags in green turtles, and a shotgun cartridge in a True’s beaked whale.

The researchers created an equation which is able to determine the maximum size of plastic item that an animal can swallow, based on the length of its body – this amounts to about a 20th of the size of the animal.

Prof Durance said: “All of us will have seen distressing, often heart-breaking, images of animals affected by plastic pollution, but a great many more interactions between animals and plastic are never witnessed. This study gives us a new way of visualising those many, many unseen events.”

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