Microplastics in the environment

Plastic pollution has been estimated to be composed of more than 5 trillion plastic pieces equal to some 250,000 tons in the global seas. A United Nations advisory body: Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) recently released a 98 page report: Sources, Fate and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment: a Global Assessment, which asserts that microplastics can have major detrimental effects on marine life based on 5 years of study. Microplastics for this report are characterized as fragments of plastics having dimensions of 1 nm to <5 mm in diameter capable of damaging marine life comparable to larger floating plastics debris. Microplastics are spread throughout consumer items ranging from abrasives to cosmetics. This report aspires to inform a potential problem that is poorly understood at global scale. The major sources of the ocean pollution are currently being identified with little knowledge of the fate and effects of microplastics in the ocean. The presence of plastics in the ocean must receive greater monitoring and control to avoid what is considered potential environmental disasters. One detrimental effect of microplastics could be the conveyance of absorbed pesticides or other toxic materials to susceptible organisms leading to cellular damage. The report found that information and data related to microplastics were highly variable and poorly quantified. A search for hotspots on land and in the sea could greatly aid the analysis of the environmental effects of microplastics. The report advocates control of plastic pollution on land before it becomes a water pollution issue.

John A. Glaser, Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, August 2015, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1383-1391, August 2015

The article


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