'The plastic Nile': First evidence of microplastic contamination in fish from the nile river (Cairo, Egypt)

Farhan R. Khan*, Yvonne Shashoua, Alex Crawford, Anna Drury, Kevin Sheppard, Kenneth Stewart, Toby Sculthorp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The presence of microplastics (MPs) in the world's longest river, the Nile River, has yet to be reported. This small-scale study aimed to provide the first information about MPs in the Nile River by sampling the digestive tracts of two fish species, the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus, n = 29) and catfish (Bagrus bayad, n = 14). Fish were purchased from local sellers in Cairo, and then their gastrointestinal tracts were dissected and examined for MPs. Over 75% of the fish sampled contained MPs in their digestive tract (MP prevalence of 75.9% and 78.6% for Nile tilapia and catfish, respectively). The most abundant MP type was fibers (65%), the next most abundant type was films (26.5%), and the remaining MPs were fragments. Polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP) were all non-destructively identified by attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. A comparison with similar studies from marine and freshwater environments shows that this high level of MP ingestion is rarely found and that fish sampled from the Nile River in Cairo are potentially among the most in danger of consuming MPs worldwide. Further research needs to be conducted, but, in order to mitigate microplastic pollution in the Nile River, we must act now.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
JournalToxics
Volume8
Issue number2
ISSN2305-6304
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by Sky News International (no grant number).

Keywords

  • Africa
  • ATR-FTIR spectroscopy
  • Catfish (Bagrus bajad)
  • Fibers
  • Freshwater
  • Ingestion
  • Microplastics
  • Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)

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