With plastic use and its presence in the environment becoming more prevalent, it should not come as a surprise that a group of scientists has discovered a new disease in birds, which is caused completely by the consumption of plastic.

The study, published in the journal Hazardous Materials, aptly named the disease plasticosis. The characteristic feature of the disease is inflammation of the digestive tract in birds, which leads to scarring with increased plastic consumption.

Though the disease was discovered in sea birds, specifically flesh-footed shearwaters from Australia’s Lord Howe Island, the scientists posit that the disease is likely to be present in other birds and organisms.

In the study, scientists studied the relationship between the amount of plastic consumed and its effect on the proventriculus organ – the first part of a bird’s stomach, The Guardian reported.

Incredibly, researchers found a linear relationship between the level of plastic ingested and the amount of scarring caused.

Plasticosis can cause a gradual breakdown of tubular glands in the proventriculus. The improper functioning of these glands makes the birds vulnerable to infection and parasites as well as affects their ability to digest food and absorb some vitamins, as per WioNews.

When microplastics make their way into the birds’ digestive tract, it leads to inflammation. Persistent inflammation results in scarred and disfigured tissues that affect digestion, growth and survival.

In the study, microplastics were found in 30 flesh-footed shearwater birds, including 21 fledglings, just 80 and 90 days old, who had died recently. In a particular case, a bird had consumed 12.5 percent of its body weight in plastic, according to the study.

To make it abundantly clear that the disease is caused by the presence of plastic and not by other natural substances such as pumice stones found in the stomachs of birds, scientists have named the disease after the material.

“While these birds can look healthy on the outside, they’re not doing well on the inside. This study is the first time that stomach tissue has been investigated in this way and shows that plastic consumption can cause serious damage to these birds’ digestive system,” Dr. Alex Bond, principal curator in charge of birds at the Natural History Museum in London, said.

Researchers believe that all organisms will be exposed to plastic eventually because of the increasing levels of plastic emissions and plastic pollution in all environments worldwide.

“Further, the ingestion of plastic has far-reaching and severe consequences, many of which we are only just beginning to fully document and understand,” researchers included.

In another study, researchers have found micro- and nano-plastics (MNPs) pass on from the mothers to the unborn baby. “Petroleum-based plastics are not biodegradable, but weathering and photooxidation break them into tiny fragments. These tiny fragments, called micro-nano-plastics, are found in human lungs, placentas, and blood, raising human health concerns,” Philip Demokritou, the Henry Rutgers Chair and professor in nanoscience and environmental bioengineering at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said.