A new study revealed a range of effects on the health of seabirds that dealt with plastic debris and on organ function, including elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood.
According to Phys, the research was conducted by an international team of scientists, including Dr. Alex Bond, chief bird coordinator at the Museum of Natural History.
The research, part of a long-term study conducted on Lord Howe Island 600 kilometers off the east coast of Australia, revealed that this remote island is home to some of the world’s most polluted seabirds.
The new study led by Dr. Jennifer Lavers of the Institute of Marine Studies and Antarctica. The team found that instead of feeding their birds with regular diets, adult birds would provide their young people with plastic shards, including bottle caps.
The study results revealed that between 80 to 90% of all young birds had at least one plastic piece in their stomachs. In one case, 274 pieces weighing 64 grams were found in one bird.
“The seabirds that ate the plastic had high cholesterol levels, had a lower rate of dissolved calcium and also tended to have more uric acid and more amylase in their blood,” said Dr. Bond. “Just one piece of plastic is enough to make this change”.
High cholesterol levels have an unexpected result, and what this means for birds and their health is still not fully understood. For example, in humans, high cholesterol can cause circulatory problems, but research is still needed to understand how these changes affect birds.