Fish have been swallowing microplastics since the 1950s

Forget diamonds—plastic is forever. It takes decades, or even centuries, for plastic to break down, and nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some form today. We’ve known for a while that big pieces of plastic can harm wildlife—think of seabirds stuck in plastic six-pack rings—but in more recent years, scientists have discovered microscopic bits of plastic in the water, soil, and even the atmosphere. To learn how these microplastics have built up over the past century, researchers examined the guts of freshwater fish preserved in museum collections; they found that fish have been swallowing microplastics since the 1950s and that the concentration of microplastics in their guts has increased over time.

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