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Earth Science

Plastic Waste Threatens Marine Diversity 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "An article in Current Biology (abstract) details the finding that minute particles of plastic waste are affecting marine worms, potentially having grave impacts on marine biodiversity (PDF) and leading to the accumulation of toxins in marine animals. 'The team found that the tiny bits of plastic, which measure 1mm or smaller, transferred pollutants and additive chemicals — such as flame-retardants — into the guts of lugworms (Arenicola marina). This process results in the chemical reaching the creatures' tissue, causing a range of biological effects such as thermal stress and the inability to consume as much sediment.' Unfortunately, policymakers have routinely treated such wastes as benign. The BBC provides more approachable coverage of the findings."
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Plastic Waste Threatens Marine Diversity

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  • Paper or plastic? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KrazyDave (2559307) <> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @03:20AM (#45592511) Homepage

    In America there are tight regulations of the manufacturing, and transport on top of EPA. When you request a plastic bag, it's clean and it's fate is clean, plus we have profuse kandfill space available that is also tightly managed and regulated.

    It is the "emerging" economies led by China and India who dump unregulated waste including heavy metals and other toxins, have dirty-technolgy, and unregulated factories that spew millions of tons of untreated air pollution and who also dump millions of tons of their plastic garbage directly into our oceans.

    So you jackass hipsters at Trader Joe's keep using your filthy little burlap bags and thinking that you're making a difference while you turn a blind eye to the ecological atrocities committed by your we-are-the-world brothers.

  • Re:Paper or plastic? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:30AM (#45592755) Homepage Journal

    Why is this modded -1 Troll? Parent is correct; in the U.S. (and I assume most other developed nations), close to 100% of plastic waste either go into a landfill or is recycled. Amount dumped into the ocean is negligible.

  • The food chain.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by voodoo cheesecake (1071228) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @04:54AM (#45592839)

    Some may argue that such research is pointless because pollution goes hand in hand with civilization or that we will never be able to clean up what is already out there. I disagree. Understanding how organisms are affected may give valuable insights into how pollution is and will alter the food chain. The article mentions "accumulation of toxins", this is bioaccumulation of not only different sizes and types of microplastics, it is also the bioaccumulation of the plasticizers that leach out as these microplastics degrade in a particular environment over time. Then some of these organisms are eaten by others which results in bioamplification of whatever toxins linger - mainly in fatty tissues. These organisms migrate and here you and I sit at the top of the food chain ready to devour what we assume is safe to eat. Some of the plasticizers - such as bisphenol-A (synthetic estrogen used to harden plastics) and phthalates (used to soften plastics) are well known endocrine disruptors; i.e. they mimic hormones which can alter development of offspring. Wouldn't such biological activity of these contaminants be worth studying - say in the realm of genetics - specifically epigenetics?

    Food for though. Do a load of laundry that is all 100% cotton and you end up with quite a few cotton fibers in the dryer's lint filter. Do a similar size load of clothing containing synthetic fibers and notice there is far less in the lint filter and that the fibers are considerably smaller. Do another load of synthetics and filter out all of the water drained from the washing machine and take a look at what wind up in a settling pond (unless there is a storm surge that overloads the sewage system) and eventually to the ocean.

    Not only are the toxins from microplastics a concern, but so are the fibers themselves which can block gills and also act as substrates for organisms from one environment to flourish upon, be transported upon and potentially become an invasive species in another environment resulting in loss of resources for the fishing industry rippling through the global economy.

This place just isn't big enough for all of us. We've got to find a way off this planet.