Plastic waste in the world’s oceans can cause deformities in sea urchins and other wildlife.
A new study led by scientists from the University of Exeter found sea urchin embryos raised in plastic-contaminated seawater samples suffered from a range of abnormalities, including deformed skeletons and nervous systems.
Researchers noted that the plastic-to-water ratio in the study would only be seen in severely polluted habitats and emphasised the harmful effects were caused by chemicals embedded in the plastics leaching out into the water.
Flora Rendell-Bhatti, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “We are learning more and more about how ingesting plastic affects marine animals.
“However, little is known about the effects of exposure to chemicals that leach into the water from plastic particles.
“This study provides evidence that contamination of the marine environment with plastic could have direct implications for the development of larvae, with potential impacts on wider ecosystems.
“Our work contributes to the growing evidence that we all need to help reduce the amount of plastic contamination released into our natural environment, to ensure healthy and productive ecosystems for future generations.”