An international team of scientists has found that up to 52% of birds not only eat plastic, but also accumulate it in their bodies.

Seabirds from Gough Island in the South Atlantic, Marion Islands near Antarctica, and the shores of Hawaii and Western Australia have a dangerous habit of eating plastic. The authors of the new work studied 32 species of seabirds selected from around the world.

Plastic waste that ends up in the ocean heats up under the sun’s rays and because of this breaks down into tiny particles – microplastics. They are similar in size to the small fish or insects that seabirds feed on most.

The authors note that the use of plastic can cause physical harm to birds and lead to the death of seabirds. To date, the biological consequences of microplastics consumption are not fully understood.

The authors of the new study analyzed pancreatic oil from 145 seabirds that live in 16 different locations around the world. By studying the concentration of chemicals in this oil, researchers can determine the level of contaminants in the internal fat stores of poultry.

High concentrations of the chemicals were found in seabirds, which also ate plastic actively. As a result, 10 to 30% of birds worldwide are likely to accumulate chemicals from eating microplastics. Only 52% of the birds studied are in the habit of eating it.