A researcher has warned that tiny plastic fragments in Bermuda’s waters could have a huge impact on public health.

Shane Antonition said: “The sources of microplastics in our waters are multifaceted. These can range from litter that originated from Bermuda such as through accidental releases, though most of it comes from overseas on the ocean currents.

“Globally between four and 12 million metric tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. These plastics can break down due to sunlight and wave energy and the majority float on the ocean surface, and then can be transported around the world.”

He explained that the microplastics can be eaten by sea creatures, which introduces toxic materials into the food chain.

Mr Antonition said: “One of the immediate impacts is ingestion by marine life. These can lead to the direct starvation of the organism or the bioaccumulation of heavy metals and toxic chemicals. The scary thing is that it is impacting every food-chain level, from plankton to whales. A major concern is how much we are indirectly ingesting through our consumption of fish.”

Mr Antonition delivered a lecture at the Bermuda Zoological Society yesterday. He the easiest way to tackle the problem was to cut back on or ban single-use plastics such as straws, plastic bags and cutlery.

He added: “Other jurisdictions are already implementing some of these things on a larger scale and Bermuda certainly has the capability to be a leading model of a plastic-reduced economy.”