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How Microplastics Threaten Ocean Life Cycle

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Micronizing ocean plastics may likely be responsible for a waste-associated species population decline or extinction event. As ocean plastics continue to micronize, smaller and smaller particles are being consumed by the smallest creatures in the ocean and could compromise the entire food chain. The plastic accumulate in animals, inhibiting their ability to uptake the nutrients they need to survive. It’s possible that a complete disruption of the ocean life cycle may occur.

Microplastics come from many sources, including larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces in the environment. According to the National Ocean Service, another form of microplastics are microbeads, which are “very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products such as some cleansers and toothpastes”.

In a recent study, researchers collected hatchling sea turtles that washed up on beaches in Florida, USA and taken to the Laggerhead Marinelife Center for rehabilitation. During their rehabilitation, it was discovered that all of the sea turtles had some amount of ingested microplastic in them. Over half of the turtles died, leading the team to theorize that they had blockages or nutritional deficiencies associated with microplastic ingestion.

The researchers estimate that less than 1 in 10,000 hatchling sea turtles make it to sexual maturity. It is predicted that there will soon be insufficient numbers of sea turtle hatchlings reaching sexual maturity to offset natural and other human-associated losses. Without human intervention, microplastics we may see a complete disruption of the ocean life cycle within our lifetime.

Composition of microplastics

The plastic particles passed by the sea turtles were analyzed, and 54 percent of what was found were polyethylene and 24 percent were polypropylene. These are the most common plastics that are primarily used in packaging, especially food packaging.

Individual Actions to Take

To prevent a complete disruption of the ocean life cycle, each of us has to take responsibility for the items that we consume on a daily basis. It’s extremely difficult to get rid of our addiction to plastic products, however, I have a challenge for you!

For one month, try going zero waste, and take inventory of the waste you produce. There are lots of resources on YouTube of other people making the same journey, and sharing their successes and challenges.

Each of us can make a difference!

[Via Science Daily]

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