One 2018 study confirmed that most waste products in the ocean were made from plastic, say W. Gifford-Jones and Diana Gifford-Jones. (File photo by The Associated Press)

One 2018 study confirmed that most waste products in the ocean were made from plastic, say W. Gifford-Jones and Diana Gifford-Jones. (File photo by The Associated Press)

Health: Plastic soup is a disastrous meal

  • Mar. 1, 2022 5:30 a.m.

Why is humankind so bent on destruction? Why so apathetic in the face of annihilating warfare, repeated massive oil spills and choking urban smog? Equally awful is the “Plastic Soup” in our oceans.

A picture of a Hawaiian beach reveals the folly of humans. It shows a huge amount of plastic washed ashore – an insult to a beautiful beach. Such ocean garbage is a serious hazard for sea life. Don’t believe the rest us are immune to this environmental disaster. Our lives, too, depend on our oceans.

Small planktonic organisms, through photosynthesis, transform carbon in air and seawater into organic compounds, an essential element of Earth’s carbon cycle. They generate about half the atmosphere’s oxygen, as much per year as all land plants. Plankton also provides a food source for marine animals. But studies show plastic particles are also being ingested by these animals. This poses a major problem for us all.

Microplastics carry toxic chemicals such as DDT and heavy metals. Scientists say concentrations can reach a million times higher than present in the natural environment. The worrying point is that these contaminated particles are in our food chain and who knows what new diseases will emerge.

Humankind should get its act together. Ocean plastics are concentrating in large offshore patches, extending for miles, consisting of floating and submerged debris. Microplastics and other garbage are present in all oceans and found even at the deepest levels. It’s been called “Plastic Soup.”

It’s estimated the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” contains at least 70,000 tons of ocean plastic across an area twice the size of Texas! But don’t believe it is only the large garbage patches that are the concern. Most of the plastic material is small and distributed throughout the ocean.

The 2018 study confirmed that most waste products in the ocean were made from plastic. A major culprit was cigarettes containing plastic filters. When will humans understand this smoking madness must end?

The fishing industry is not so innocent either. As dependent as it is on preserving a healthy ocean environment, it gets a big F grade. The World Animal Protection Federation, a non-profit association, reports fishers dump an estimated 700 tons of “ghost fishing gear” into the oceans every year. Why? They do not want to spend the money for repairs.

This further pollutes the ocean. It also traps and ensnares sea life. Animals face another problem. They are eating all this garbage. For instance, in 2018 a dead sperm whale washed ashore on the Spanish coast. A necroscopy revealed the whale’s stomach contained 64 pounds of plastic trash! This trash is part of the diet of 800 marine species!

The US-based Natural Resources Defence Council is trying to get this “Plastic Soup” from getting into the ocean in the first place. Other organizations are monitoring the presence of microplastics so small they float in the air. Very, very small nanoparticles have been proven to pass through cell walls in fish and humans, where they can be chemically active and potentially affect endocrine function, for example.

We are late in realizing the impact of plastic waste and far too slow to act. If we want to protect our brain, lungs, kidneys, endocrine system, and other organs, it means getting active. Banning plastic bags and radically reducing plastic consumption is required. Eliminating microplastics from common products is also needed. Consumers need to demand less plastic packaging, always recycle, and change buying habits.

Let’s not make plastic soup our every meal – and our demise.

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