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Bio-accumulation of toxins - plastics in the food chain

Bioaccumulation of toxins - plastics in the food chain

What is actually the Bioaccumulation of toxins or plastics in the food chain.? An organism absorbs substances such as plastic from the environment and passes these harmful substances on to other living creatures through the food chain. We humans also ingest plastic components in this way. Mussels and other sea creatures contain plastic. The Microplastics penetrates the cells of living creatures as it enters the organism through the gills, for example. As the plastic lies in the tissue, inflammation is triggered. This process, which is difficult to understand (because it is not visible), of the Bio Accumulation (uptake of a substance) or the Bio Magnification (transfer in the food chain) provides a high health burden for all living creatures. In today's article I will explain the process, explain the consequences for all living creatures and show you what you can do from now on to counteract this invisible danger of plastic particles in the food chain.

What are bioaccumulation and biomagnification?

Now I would like to explain to you first of all the two terms Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification explain:


Bioaccumulation describes, as already mentioned, the uptake of substances (such as plastics) by an organism from its environment. Bioaccumulation can damage the ingesting organism and may even lead to death. While marine animals absorb substances such as plastics increasingly from the water through the skin, gills or food from the sediment, land dwellers such as us absorb the pollutants mainly through food or drinking water. Through the ingestion of, for example, plastic particles by an organism, the toxic plastic often enters the food chain and thus passes through the next step of the great danger posed by toxins in organisms.


Biomagnification is the transfer of ingested substances through the food chain and thus the continuation of bioaccumulation. If we eat a fish that has already undergone the process of bioaccumulation of plastic particles, these plastic particles are also passed on to us via the food chain. In this way, toxins such as plastic can also take a path through many organisms in a food chain until they reach the top of the food chain. The higher a creature is in the food chain, the more toxins are absorbed. The creatures at the bottom of the food chain (including us humans) are therefore also particularly vulnerable to the uptake of plastic particles through bio-magnification.

What happens after the plastic is picked up?

Of course, not every piece of plastic that a creature ingests through food remains in the food chain. Just because marine animals such as turtles, whales, tuna and many others see floating plastic pieces as food and eventually eat the plastic, this does not mean that plastic particles have automatically entered the food chain. Much more important is the answer to the question: did the plastic in the food cause toxins to enter the organism of the ingesting creature? Did the cell ingest plastic particles? If this is the case, the plastic has made it into the food chain and can also be absorbed by our bodies and become a major burden on our health.

What are the consequences of plastic in the food chain?

When plastic parts are eaten or otherwise enter the cells of a living being and the plastic components enter the food chain, this has fatal consequences for humans and animals. Marine animals are particularly affected. Every year, around 1,000,000 seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die as a result of contact with our plastic waste. But in addition to the consequences for the environment, excessive plastic consumption or the plastic waste that is created also affects us. Environmentally harmful consumption is catching up with us. The burden of microplastics on the human body is not directly noticeable or only visible after a somewhat longer period of time. That is why only a few people really think about it.

What is plastic, anyway?

To understand the danger, it is important to familiarize yourself with the Plastic production to deal with. Plastic does not rot. It gradually breaks down into microplastics over many decades, but it will not disappear. The reason for this is the production of plastic from petroleum or raw gasoline, coal or natural gas. In order to put the plastic into the solid form we are familiar with and make it flexible to shape in the manufacturing process, the plastic is treated in production by so-called Plasticizers (phthalates), colorants, flame retardants and other fillers. If these components of plastic get into our cells, whether through the skin or mouth, they are absolutely harmful to our health. Researchers have found that plastic in the food chain not only affects our immune system and hormones, but also causes significant changes in our genetic makeup, negatively affecting the development of embryos. Plastic can also result in diseases such as cancer and cause various allergies. If plastic gets into our cells, it is absolutely toxic for humans and animals.

Bioaccumulation - What you can do about plastic

Once the microplastic has entered an organism in the food chain, it is already too late. Sooner or later, the plastic component ends up on our plates. That is why prevention is so particularly important. In the fight against plastic waste, I would like to give you the following tips that should accompany you from now on. Because only together can we have a measurable, positive influence on excessive plastic consumption:

Avoid plastic waste in everyday life:

Live plastic free, is so nice because it can be implemented immediately. You can make your everyday life more plastic-free and change your attitude towards plastic within a few minutes:

  • Use a cloth bag for your groceries and avoid plastic bags: The plastic bag is the biggest producer of plastic waste on our planet. How unnecessary, considering that a simple cloth bag solves this problem in the long run.
  • Swap your plastic toothbrush for a wooden one: Why do so many people still use a plastic toothbrush? Because they are simply unaware of the danger to the environment and their health. Since dentists recommend changing your toothbrush every 3 months, you can save money with this vegan and plastic-free toothbrush. Wooden toothbrush with natural bristles do a lot for the environment and against plastic waste.
  • Use glass or stainless steel water bottles instead of plastic bottles: I myself have this stainless steel bottle and also use reused glass bottles from TrueFruits. I no longer use plastic bottles at all. We can easily drink water from the tap, which also eliminates the need to carry heavy bottles to the apartment.
  • When it comes to cosmetics, make sure to avoid the following ingredients: Chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polycarbonate (PC), bisphenol A (BPA) and organotin compounds are proven to be harmful to health. They are currently still found in very many toothpastes, shampoos or Peelings. There remains only the hope for an adjustment of the law or the alternative to make the products themselves. By the way, many cosmetics are quite easy to make yourself.
  • What else you can do in your everyday life against plastic waste, you will learn in this detailed article on how to avoid plastic waste in everyday life..

Support projects & join in:

The everyday tips help to prevent plastic waste from being created in the first place. But who actually cares about the plastic waste that has already been created and is in the process of destroying our environment? And how can you help yourself? Here's some info: Intensively deal with plastic waste: Deal more with the topic Plastic waste in our environment (on land but especially in the ocean) and raise your awareness of the consequences and dangers of plastic components. Share your knowledge and help others develop this awareness.

  • Support NABU Germany: The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU for short) fights for our environment at home and abroad. With NABU, you can help protect rivers, oceans, forests and endangered species. It doesn't matter if you "lend a hand" yourself, donate something or become a marine sponsor. Here you can support and help yourself. Here you get more info in support of NABU's.
  • Federal work: The Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. (BUND) also regularly publishes studies on the subject of plastic waste and microplastics. (BUND) regularly publishes studies on the subject of plastic waste and microplastics. Take a quick look at this guidebook on the subject of micro-plastics an. The guidebook summarizes dangers, actions and plans of the federal government and also shows once again concretely what everyone can do personally.
  • Project Microplast: A research project called Microplast is currently underway on Helgoland. Here, infrared light is used to check how much plastic is in the North Sea crabs. The researchers suspect that about 90% of the plastic waste in the North Sea is smaller than 5 cm and thus counts as microplastic. Small sea creatures such as crabs, mussels and fish also eat it.
  • Project The Ocean Cleanup: The company is developing technologies that will rid the entire ocean of the plastic waste found on the water's surface within 5 years, starting in 2020. The project is led by young Dutchman Boyan Slat and is growing and growing.
  • Plastic-free e-book reading: Learn even more about how we can avoid plastic in my free plastic-free e-book. You can download the e-book download here for free.

Conclusion on bioaccumulation - plastics in the food chain

The plastic in the organism or in the food chain is an invisible danger for humans and animals. The more plastic waste we produce, the more ends up in the environment sooner or later. So finally in the sea, in the stomachs of living creatures and in the food chain. We are poisoning ourselves, because at some point the plastic waste will end up on our plates again in the form of microplastics. We have to reduce the plastic waste before it is created and we can support the already created plastic waste from our environment through relief actions. Everyone should really have understood that by now.

Stay clean,

CareElite Christoph

PS.: You can get all tips for plastic-free living in the Plastic Free Blog by CareElite. Have fun with the implementation!

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate links. If you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!


Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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