Is plastic poisoning our planet?
With the necropsy of a beloved Thailand dugong reveiling a belly fully of plastic, the dangers of plastic in our waterways is once again back in the public eye. Stories of the dangers of plastic have swamped the media, including not just the dangers to wildlife, but also the human dangers too.
At the bottom of the food chain, tiny zoo plankton eat microplastics, confusing them for their own natural food sources. These plastics often fail to be excreted, building up in their bodies over time. When they are in turn consumed by larger predators, the result is that by the time fish humans consume such as tuna get involved, quite a lot of plastic has gotten into their system.
This isn't just a concern because you might end up taking a bite of plastic along with your tuna steak. Along with the plastics come PBTs – Persistant, Bioacumulative and Toxic substances. PBTs are currently poorly understood by scientists, but what studies have been done are troubling.
One study that looked at a common Japanese species of fish widely accepted as model for the science community, found that PBTs affected their liver functionality, and in one fish in the study, caused a tumor.
What this means for humans is still questionable. We know that PBTs can potentially cause cancer, and that the toxins can have long term effects on reproductive health. We also know that for the most part, plastic has been found in almost every sample of fish taken. It is so pervasive, it is expected that at our present rate there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.
What can be done
Avoiding PBTs in our seafood is all but impossible now. Plastic is in all our waterways, and has even been found raining from the sky in Antarctica, a place with no permanent human life. Rather than trying to avoid it, the best possible course of action is to stop plastic from getting into our oceans, so that PBTs will eventually disappear from our fish.
While this is currently an impossible task, there's hope. Plastic clean up machines are currently being tested, and while still a long way from being perfect have shown promise. Other clean ups such as 4oceans clean up pounds of plastic every time you purchase one of their bracelets.
The most permanent solution however, isn't cleaning up, it's turning off the tap. Replace as much single use plastic as possible in your life. Refuse any plastic that you can, and if you can't refuse it recycle, upcycle, or reuse it.
The plastic problem isn't going to go away unless we force change by saying no, and helping businesses understand that single use plastic for everything is no longer a viable option. You can make a surprisingly large impact by voicing your opinion. Let your favorite companies know you want to see plastic free options, and that you'll be voting with your wallet.
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