Bite-size pieces of plastic chipped from wave-battered consumer products work their way up marine food chains, suggest researchers examining fur seals in Australia.
The oceans are awash in plastic flotsam, and scientists have long studied this debris and its effects on wildlife. Small plastic pellets are a hazard for hungry seabirds, which mistake them for fish eggs or other food. These pellets–the raw material for plastic products–accumulate oily contaminants such as PCBs on their surfaces (SN: 2/3/01, p. 79: Available to subscribers at Plastic debris picks up ocean toxics). Larger refuse, such as fishnets and soft drink containers, has been considered hazardous but generally not because animals confuse it with food.
Between 1990 and 1997, Harry Burton of the Australian Antarctic Division in Kingston, Tasmania, and Cecilia Eriksson of Hobart, Tasmania, collected scat from two species of Antarctic fur seals living along beaches on Ma