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'Cleanup is futile': Experts warn as plastic pollution surge rapidly in oceans

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has stated that plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. While this has been true for years now, recently marine researchers have warned that there has been an unprecedented rise in plastic pollution in the oceans.

The researchers have said that more than 170tn plastic particles are afloat in the oceans. They have called for a reduction in the production of plastics, warning that “cleanup is futile" if they continue to be pumped into the environment at the current rate, according to a report by Guardian.

The research was published by the 5 Gyres Institute and published in the journal Plos One. During the research the experts have noted a a rapid increase of marine plastic pollution and blamed the plastics industry for failing to recycle or design for recyclability.

“Cleanup is futile if we continue to produce plastic at the current rate, and we have heard about recycling for too long while the plastic industry simultaneously rejects any commitments to buy recycled material or design for recyclability. It’s time to address the plastic problem at the source," Guardian quoted Dr Marcus Eriksen, the co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute.

IUCN warns that marine species ingest or are entangled by plastic debris, which causes severe injuries and death.

“Under the influence of solar UV radiation, wind, currents and other natural factors, plastic breaks down into small particles called microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) or nanoplastics (particles smaller than 100 nm). The small size makes them easy for marine life to ingest accidentally", notes IUCN.

Effect of ocean plastic pollution on human health

Microplastics have been found in tap water, beer, salt and are present in all samples collected in the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. Several chemicals used in the production of plastic materials are known to be carcinogenic and to interfere with the body’s endocrine system, causing developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune disorders in both humans and wildlife. Recently, microplastics were found in human placentas but more research is needed to determine if this is a widespread problem.

Toxic contaminants also accumulate on the surface of plastic as a result of prolonged exposure to seawater. When marine organisms ingest plastic debris, these contaminants enter their digestive systems, and over time accumulate in the food web. The transfer of contaminants between marine species and humans through consumption of seafood has been identified as a health hazard, and research is ongoing.

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