Several studies—particularly a 2019 study published in Environmental Pollution– have shown microplastic contamination of juvenile Chinook salmon off Vancouver Island in British Columbia, while salmon, sardine and kika fishmeal from Iran was found to contain between 4,000 and 6,000 microplastics per kilogram.
Sarah Crow, who wrote about microplastics in salmon, cited a 2017 study published in the journal Scientific Reports that found that microplastics are easily discovered in the fleshy portions of fish frequently consumed by humans.
Similarly in a 2019 study published in Environmental Science & Technology (as first reported by Mother Jones), fish are now the third most common source of microplastic consumption for Americans.
So, what’s the harm in getting a side of plastic along with your salmon?
A 2020 article published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials determined that “the abundance of microplastics could transfer hazardous pollutants to seafood (e.g., fishes and prawns) leading to cancer risk in human beings.”
Additionally, a review of research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that microplastics can affect the nervous system, kidneys, respiratory system, skin, and may even cross the placental barrier.
Some sources of fish may be safer than others when it comes to microplastic contamination, however. In a 2020 study led by the Norwegian Research Center (NORCE)’s Tracking of Plastic emissions (TrackPlast) project, among a group of 20 farmed salmon and 20 wild-caught salmon, nearly half of the farmed salmon showed signs of microplastics in their tissue, while the same was true of just “a small number” of the wild-caught fish.
Though fish seem a healthy protein source it may not be as safe as you think.
Salmon is one of the most popular types of seafood in the U.S., with the average American eating 2.55 pounds of fish each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Americans love salmon because in addition to having a light flavor that complements countless vegetables, starches, sauces, and even wine pairings, wild-caught salmon is low in calories and packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic measuring less than 5 mm in length, which are a major source of contamination in waterways that used to remain only in the gut of marine creatures
But a 2021 study published in Aquaculture found that, among 26 samples of fishmeal, the vast majority contained microplastics, but zero plastic was found in Antarctic-derived krill meal, a dietary staple in many farmed salmon.