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 user 2008-04-01 at 11:45:45 am Views: 56
  • #19834
    Warning on plastic’s toxic threat
    waste in the oceans poses a potentially devastating long-term toxic
    threat to the food chain, according to marine scientists.Studies
    suggest billions of microscopic plastic fragments drifting underwater
    are concentrating pollutants like DDT.Most attention has focused on
    dangers that visible items of plastic waste pose to seabirds and other
    wildlife.But researchers are warning that the risk of hidden
    contamination could be more serious.

    Albatross chicks
    Richard Thompson of the University of Plymouth has investigated how
    plastic degrades in the water and how tiny marine organisms, such as
    barnacles and sand-hoppers, respond.He told the BBC: “We know that
    plastics in the marine environment will accumulate and concentrate
    toxic chemicals from the surrounding seawater and you can get
    concentrations several thousand times greater than in the surrounding
    water on the surface of the plastic.”Now there’s the potential for
    those chemicals to be released to those marine organisms if they then
    eat the plastic.”

    Shoreline mess
    Once inside an organism, the
    risk is that the toxins may then be transferred into the creature
    itself.”There are different conditions in the gut environment compared
    to surrounding sea water and so the conditions that cause those
    chemicals to accumulate on the surface of the plastic may well be
    reversed – leading to a release of those chemicals when the plastic is
    eaten.”It is as if the plastic particles act as magnets for poisons in
    the ocean.In an experiment involving plastic carrier bags immersed off
    a jetty in Plymouth harbour, he is assessing the time taken for them to
    fragment.In related projects, he and colleagues have also added plastic
    powder to aquarium sediment to establish how much is ingested by marine
    life. Research on stretches of shoreline has shown that, at the
    microscopic level, plastic pollution is far worse than feared.Dr
    Thompson worries toxins may be released to marine organismsIn a typical
    sample of the sandy material gathered at the high tide mark on
    shorelines, one-quarter of the total weight may be composed of plastic
    particles.Studies have found that plastic traces have been identified
    on all seven continents.

    Here on Midway, Matt Brown of the US
    Fish and Wildlife Service echoes the warnings of a long-term threat
    from plastic waste.”The thing that’s most worrisome about the plastic
    is its tenaciousness, its durability. It’s not going to go away in my
    lifetime or my children’s lifetimes.”The plastic washing up on the
    beach today – if people don’t take it away it’ll still be here when my
    grandchildren walk these beaches.”