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The Effects of Plastics to Marine Life

By Edited May 17, 2015 0 0
Marine pollution
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

No doubt that plastic is one of the greatest human inventions in history because hundreds of things are made from it. Grocery bags, toys, containers, furniture, appliances, bottles, packaging materials, and utensils are some of the things made from plastic. Through the years, however, plastic is becoming an environmental problem. Besides filling up landfills, plastic is destroying marine life. It is alarming to learn that the millions of tons of plastics thrown in the ocean will continue to destroy the marine environment for centuries unless they are removed from it. It is estimated that a typical plastic requires more than 400 years to decompose. Plastics may disintegrate into smaller pieces but they will not decompose like organic matter. These smaller plastics will continue to kill marine organisms for years.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan[181] stated that marine trash including plastic is killing more than one million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles annually. The stomachs of dead sea lions, turtles, dolphins, fishes, seabirds, and other marine animals contain bottle tops, plastic bags, polystyrene foam, and other plastic wastes. How did these things end up in the stomachs of these poor animals? Well, these animals cannot always distinguish food from plastics. They may see small plastics as fish eggs or big plastics as jelly fishes so they eat them without hesitation. Animals with plastics in their stomach feel that they are full so they don't eat until they die due to starvation. The plastics also release toxic chemicals in an animal's body causing poisoning, disease, or defects to its offspring.

Plastics can cause suffocation or drowning when they are entangled to animals. Animals entangled to plastics also have limited movement, increasing their chances to be eaten by their predators.

Don't be surprise when the plastic you threw away will return back to kill you. You can ingest plastic by eating fishes that ingested small plastics in the ocean. The fish meat may also have been contaminated with toxins released by plastics found inside the fish's stomach. Take note that plastic and its component chemicals are not good to your health. They can slowly kill you by giving you diseases like cancer. Are you familiar with Endocrine Disrupter Chemicals (EDCs)? These are added to plastics to make them softer and easier to handle. When these chemicals reach the human body, they negatively affect the endocrine system which regulates hormonal production and release to our system. EDCs negatively affects fat cells, contributing to obesity and other metabolic disorders. Many scientists also claim that plastic chemicals cause infertility, genetic abnormalities, and problems in brain development and cell and tissue modeling.

Plastics in oceans come from ships, offshore platforms, intentional dumping, and washed off the land. Proper garbage disposal is the best way to stop the release of more plastics in the ocean. Let us all act now to save millions of marine organisms from killer plastics we dumped in the ocean.

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Bibliography

  1. "Drowning in an Ocean of Plastics." Wired. 9/08/2011 <Web >

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