Home Health & Wellness Alarming Levels of Microplastics in Ghana’s Volta Lake Raise Health Concerns

Alarming Levels of Microplastics in Ghana’s Volta Lake Raise Health Concerns

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A recent study published in Heliyon has revealed alarming levels of microplastics in Ghana’s Volta Lake, raising concerns about the potential impacts on both aquatic life and human health. Researchers from the University of Ghana and a number of other international institutions conducted the study, which looked at the prevalence, distribution, and effects of microplastics in various biota and sediment samples from the lake.

Microplastics, defined as plastic particles less than 5 mm in size, have become a ubiquitous contaminant in aquatic environments globally. These particles originate from the breakdown of larger plastic debris and from microbeads used in personal care products. The Volta Lake, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, is no exception to this pervasive problem.

Microplastics were found in large amounts in the African river prawn (Macrobrachium vollenhovenii), the Volta clam (Galatea paradoxa), the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and the sediment in the lake, according to the study. The highest mean microplastic abundance was recorded in the African river prawn, with an average of 4.7 particles per individual. In contrast, the Nile tilapia showed a lower abundance, with an average of 2.8 particles per individual. Sediment samples from the lake contained a total of 398 microplastic particles, highlighting the extensive contamination.

The study found that microplastic pollution in Volta Lake comes from a number of different places. The main sources are wastewater from textile factories, runoff from landfills, and broken fishing gear. Microfibers, which are often shed from clothes and fishing nets, were the most common type of microplastic found in both biota and sediment samples. Other types of microplastics found were polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyester (PES), and polystyrene (PS), all of which are commonly used in packaging and other consumer goods.

Microfibres were particularly abundant in areas close to fishing grounds, indicating that lost or discarded fishing gear significantly contributes to the lake’s microplastic load. The study also highlighted that smaller microplastic particles, particularly those less than 1000 micrometres, were more commonly ingested by aquatic organisms. This finding aligns with previous research suggesting that smaller particles are more readily ingested due to their size and increased bioavailability.

The presence of microplastics in edible fish species raises significant concerns about human health. As fish are a major source of protein for the local population, the ingestion of microplastics through fish consumption could have potential health impacts. While the study found that the estimated human exposure to microplastics from consuming these fish is relatively low compared to other regions, the presence of these contaminants still warrants concern.

Microplastics can carry toxic chemicals, either as additives in the plastic material itself or as pollutants absorbed from the environment. These chemicals can pose various health risks, including endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, and carcinogenic effects. The study’s authors stress the need for further research to fully understand the potential health risks associated with microplastic ingestion.

The findings from this study underscore the urgent need for effective plastic waste management and pollution control measures in Ghana. The researchers recommend the implementation of policies to limit microplastic emissions from industrial effluents and promote the use of biodegradable alternatives. Additionally, they advocate for increased public awareness about the sources and impacts of microplastic pollution.

Further research is also necessary to explore the long-term effects of microplastic ingestion on both aquatic life and human health. Regular monitoring of microplastic levels in Volta Lake and other freshwater ecosystems in Ghana is crucial to identifying pollution hotspots and developing targeted mitigation strategies.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd