Worms fail to thrive in soil containing microplastics, new research shows, adding to the growing body of evidence for the impact of widespread pollutants on the natural world. is one of the most common in agricultural lands in temperate regions. Scientists have found that worms placed in soil loaded with high density polyethylene (HDPE) – a common plastic used for bags and bottles ̵
Bas Boots, professor of biology at the University of England Ruskin and lead author of the study, said that the specific causes of the observed weight loss are not yet clear, but may be due to the impact of microplastics on the digestion of the worms. "These effects include clogging and irritation of the digestive tract, limiting the absorption of nutrients and reducing growth," he said.
If the presence of microplastics impedes the growth of earthworms on a large scale, this may have an impact on soil health and agriculture, since worms are a vital part of the soil ecosystem of agricultural land.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, adds to the growing number of studies examining the effect of microscopic plastic particles on invertebrates and fish. Although it is too early to draw conclusions about the effects on human health, studies have found damage to aquatic worms, as well as possible effects on fish and molluscs.
Microplastics have already been found in tap water, seas around the world, human droppings in the air and a wide variety of other environments
Soils in many places are likely to contain large numbers of microplastics deposited there by their presence in sewage, water and in the air. However, the extent of pollution is largely unknown, although there are European studies reporting between 700 and 4000 plastic particles per kilogram of soil in some agricultural land