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Study on the impact of Styrofoam on Live Reef Fish for Consumption

Posted by Ocean Recovery Alliance | First Choice, China

Styrofoam/polystyrene is a big contributor to ocean waste along the coastlines of Asia, as there are no restrictions yet on use, and poor waste management/recycling means that it can end up in the water and along the coasts fairly easily. The two main industries are the food (fast food containers/cups/plates) and the fishing/wet market industries, using big boxes for insulation and transport.

The live reef fish trade for restaurants is also a thriving business in Hong Kong and China, while so too is the concern for health in food products. Without much chance of legislative change on the use of polystyrene without more public interest, the introduction of health implications (if there are some), vis-a-vis live reef fish, and the consumption of polystyrene pieces, would give some opportunity for increased public dialogue and awareness on the need to find alternatives to this material.

We would like to look at a few issues, none of which have been done before to our knowledge:

1) Understand what type of fish (live fish, held in aquaculture pens in Hong Kong) might mistakenly eat polystyrene pieces if they are in the water.

2) Understand if polystyrene absorbs 3rd party toxins in the water more easily than other plastics.

3) Understand if the chemicals in polystyrene tend to "leach" more than other plastics, as they break up in the water, and if so, do these chemicals reach the fish?

4) Is there evidence of the toxins in #2 or #3 reaching the fish flesh if ingested, and if so, is there a potential health issue to humans as a result.

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