ANGLERS have been reacting to news that a river in England was found to contain the highest concentration of microplastics in the world.
Geographers at the University of Manchester made the microplastics discovery when they examined river sediments from 40 sites across Greater Manchester including urban rivers and rural streams.
And the River Tame at Denton had a level far excess of anywhere previously sampled at 517,000 particles of microplastics per square metre.
Their research found significant levels of microplastic severywhere, even in the remotest parts of head streams, and calls for tighter regulation.
After the Tame, the highest concentrations were found in the Irwell, Croal and Roch.
Microplastics fears of top angler
Former barbel record holder and environmental campaigner Ray Walton said: “The breakdown and elements of plastics would be in all rivers in the UK that have water company sewage effluent dumped into them.
“These microplastics would affect all fish and every creature along the riverine food chain as the chemicals in plastics are ‘endocrine disruptors’ so can cause sex change.
“As they are not removed in water treatment processing, then surely humans will be affected as well.
“In my opinion, it is one of the main reasons why some fish species like barbel have stopped breeding naturally in rivers, and why the EA have to keep re-stocking fish all over the UK.
“The EA, Government and water companies must have known about the problem for many years but never address or correct the problem, or even want to,” he added.
“We found microplastics everywhere”
Jamie Woodward, professor of physical geography University of Manchester, said: “If you had done the work in the West Midlands or south I am sure you would have got similar results.
“We found microplastics everywhere, even in streams high in the hills. Wherever you find people you find plastic.
“We found we had the worst levels in the world, some of which were extraordinarily high – the River Tame is a global hotspot for microplastics.
“Ultimately we need to get better at managing wastewater, and the Environment Agency urgently needs to look at Britain’s rivers and see what the extent of microplastics is in the UK.
“We believe the microplastics are finding their way into rivers from a combination of industrial effluent and domestic wastewater.
“We also found that around 70 per cent of the microplastics were then washed away into the sea.
“While that is good for the river beds, showing they can effectively cleanse themselves, it is bad news for the oceans.
“We are only beginning to understand the extent of the microplastic contamination problem in the world’s rivers.
“To tackle the problem in the oceans, we have to prevent microplastics entering river channels,” he concluded.
The researchers estimate that the floods of 2015 flushed around 43 billion microplastic particles from the River Mersey and Irwell catchments, and into the Irish Sea.
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