21 Jul River Thames has higher density of microplastics than other major European rivers | UK News
The River Thames has a higher density of microplastics than several other major rivers in the world, new research shows.
More than 94,000 microplastics flow down some sections of the river in London every second, scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London found.
Microbeads, glitter and other plastic fragments were all found in water samples taken from Putney in southwest London and Greenwich in the southeast of the capital.
Crabs along the river were also found to have consumed small items of plastic, with an examination of 135 crabs resulting in 874 pieces of plastic being removed from their bodies.
The researchers said it was “unsurprising” that microplastics had been found in 80% of London’s tap water and estimated that, in total, around 94,000 microplastics per second flow down the river at Greenwich.
The density of microplastics in the Thames – 19.5 plastics per cubic metre – was found to be greater than levels recorded in the River Po in Italy and the Chicago River in the US.
It was also found to have a higher density of microplastics than the likes of the Rhine in Germany and the Danube in Romania, but had lower levels than the Yangtze River in China.
Scientists said the Thames study excluded the abundance of microfibers, which accounted for 79% of all microplastics in the Yangtze Estuary.
Professor Dave Morritt, from the department of biological sciences at Royal Holloway, said: “Taken together these studies show how many different types of plastic, from microplastics in the water through to larger items of debris physically altering the foreshore, can potentially affect a wide range of organisms in the River Thames.
“The increased use of single-use plastic items, and the inappropriate disposal of such items, including masks and gloves, along with plastic-containing cleaning products, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, may well exacerbate this problem.”
The results of their studies are reported in three separate papers published in the Science of the Total Environment and Environmental Pollution.
The Thames stretches about 215 miles (346km) across southern England and is the UK’s second longest river.
It drains the whole of Greater London and its tidal section is believed to contain around 125 different species of fish.