Microplastics in the Marine Environment

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Over the past few decades society’s waste and non renewable usage has been growing at a rampant pace. As a result, we’re left with tons of garbage and debris that litters our planet. One of the most glaring incidences of increased waste accumulation are the garbage patches of the Pacific Ocean. While the garbage patches are incredibly expansive in size, it isn’t the patches themselves that are the main problem. The plastics that make up a good portion of the floating trash islands take an immense amount of time to decompose, thus making their impact much more expansive than that of other debris.These plastics break up over time into much smaller plastic particles called microplastics. Microplastics are often so small that they cannot be seen by the naked eye, but their small size is what makes them so dangerous. Many sea dwelling creatures mistake microplastics for food, and as a result ingest massive quantities of them.

While it may seem easy to disregard the amount of microplastic in the sea for some, it is quickly becoming apparent how far reaching the consequences of microplastics are. All manner of sea life are turning up in our supermarkets and on our plates that have abnormally high levels of microplastics in their bodies. Therefore, the results of human pollution are coming full circle to the very “dinner tables” of society at large. This topic like many environmental topics has wide reaching effects. Not only is this issue nonpartisan. It stretches among all the countries of the world. Infact this issue tends to not effect the countries releasing all of this plastic waste into the oceans, it affect small populations that inhabit islands far away from our coasts. Although we do not see the grand effects from our plastic use, the rest of the world does and they are not happy with the countries, who dispose of so much waste via the oceans.

Due to the rapid growth of microplastics in the marine environment, there has been a steady increase in accumulation of toxic substances which can lead to toxic pollutants in the food web which have serious health consequences. This is because the plastic can actually absorb toxins that it comes into contact with and then contaminate its surroundings and anything that digests the plastics. Often, fish and other animals in the ocean will mistake the plastic waste for prey and consume the microplastics. This leads to a vast amount of health implications on the fish such as, lowered steroid hormone level, delayed ovulation, internal injuries and many more. The chemicals in these plastics are proven to be very toxic. They often contain plasticizers such as, Bisphenol A and dibutyl phthalates which are integrated in the plastics during the manufacturing process. While these plastics are on the surface, they become toxic and percolate into the environment or animal tissues when ingested. Here has been evidence that these toxins can change the sex of marine animals as well as have dire effects as it makes its way up the food chain. These plastic have been found in the large marine animals.  Also, microplastics can alter the natural conditions of marine habitats.   The constant increase in microplastic in the marine environment is proven to “influence the socioeconomic systems by changing the environmental quality for future generations.”  For example, in the Pacific Ocean, the steady increase of microplastics could impact the fishing industry in the near future. The impacts of microplastics can lead to output loss or loss of value in the sales for the fishing industry. Not only does this affect the industry but it effects the animals that consume these fish, including humans.

In this blog we will attempt to show you the background and history of Microplastics in Marine Environments as well as the current status and controversies. Lastly we will give a critique of the current practices to deal with this issue and wrap it up with closing comments and a take home message for the reader.  We will be using web article, peer-reviewed journal articles, and videos to help convey the importance of remediation of our oceans, specifically focusing on microplastics.

Ogunola OS, Palanisami T (2016) Microplastics in the Marine Environment: Current Status, Assessment Methodologies, Impacts and Solutions. J Pollut Eff Cont 4:161. doi:10.4172/2375-4397.1000161

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One thought on “Microplastics in the Marine Environment

  1. randypeppler February 19, 2017 / 7:14 pm

    This is a good start, Group 4. You define the problem quite well – I would have liked for you to have cited a real-world example or incident as part of this, per how our book chapters start, but you make up for it with a lot of good information. There’s some young guy in the Netherlands (he was 19 when his video was made) who has a plan for cleaning up microplastics in the ocean. Remember to look and around and do solid research for these postings. You needed to ask some questions, too. 45 out of 50 points.

    Like

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