Reading study finds 'new pathway' for plastic pollution
Mosquitoes are transferring plastics into the food chain which is "contaminating almost every corner of the environment", scientists have said.
A study at University of Reading found tiny fragments of plastic were getting inside flying insects that lay their eggs in water.
Academics discovered "mircoplastics" inside larvae remained until adulthood.
Birds and bats then eat insects, which experts say provides a "new pathway" for plastics to enter food chains.
Emma Priestland, Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner, said the findings were "disturbing" and that plastic pollution was "everywhere, not just the marine environment".
"Knowing that plastic can be transferred from the larval stage to the adult mosquito, which then serves as food to a multitude of larger animals, highlights the urgency with which we need to drastically reduce our use of plastic," she added.
The study involved PhD student Rana Al-Jaibachi feeding fluorescent plastic microbeads to mosquito larvae, and monitoring their fate through their life cycle.
She used microscopes to examine whether the tiny plastics had transferred from feeding larval stages into the adult insect.
Professor Amanda Callaghan, biological scientist and lead author of the study, said the research was "eye opening" and that it was the "first time" microplastics could "navigate" several life stages in flying insects.
She said: "Much recent attention has been given to the plastics polluting our oceans, but this research reveals it is also in our skies.
"It is a shocking reality that plastic is contaminating almost every corner of the environment and its ecosystems."