Chemicals From Plastics Have Been Found Inside Bird Eggs

Seabirds in Arctic colonies more than 160 kilometres from the nearest human settlement have laid eggs containing chemical additives used in plastics.

Phthalates -- a family of chemicals which are added to plastic to increase their flexibility -- have been found in eggs laid by northern fulmars on Prince Leopold Island in the Canadian Arctic.

The hormone-disrupting chemical can be found in anything from cosmetics, to detergents, building materials and even food, but have been banned from many children's toys.

Scientists believe that the contaminants from plastic debris the birds ingested while hunting for food at sea, leached into the bloodstream and the eggs the females were producing.

It's the first time traces have been found in the eggs of Arctic birds.

Northern fulmar / Arctic fulmar soaring over the sea. IMAGE: ARTERRA/UIG via Getty

“We are finding multiple plastic-derived contaminants that are maternally transferred to the egg,” Dr Jennifer Provencher of the Canadian Wildlife Service said. “It’s really tragic. We know that these chemicals are often endocrine disruptors, and we know that they can interrupt hormonal development and cause deformations".

Whether or not they actually cause any harm to the eggs remains unknown.

Further tests found traces of other plastic contaminants in northern fulmar and black-legged kittiwake eggs found in the same region, according to The Guardian.

IMAGE: Getty

With the positive tests recorded in some of the most pristine environments on earth, scientists are concerned about the level of contaminants that could be in the eggs of other bird populations that ingest far more plastic debris.

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READ MORE: Plastic Has Reached Remote Parts Of The Antarctic

Speaking a the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, Dr Provencher said it was important to establish just how widespread the problem is, and whether these chemicals are actually affecting the birds.

Close to eight million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year, with as much as 150 million tonnes clogging the waterways.