Here’s a summary of the article. Based on what we know about marine plastic, can you guess when it was written?
ABSTRACT Plastic particles, in concentrations averaging 3500 pieces and 290 grams per square kilometer, are widespread in the western Sargasso Sea. Pieces are brittle, apparently due to the weathering of the plasticizers, and many are in a pellet shape about 0.25 to 0.5 centimeters in diameter. the particles are surfaces for the attachment of diatoms and hydroids. Increasing production of plastics, combined with present waste-disposal practices, will undoubtedly lead to increases in the concentrations of these particles. Plastics could be a source of some of the polychlorinated biphenyls recently observed in oceanic organisms.
Don’t have time to read the whole thing? Here’s the key point:
Many plastics contain considerable concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) as plasticizers. If the plasticizers have been lost to seawater, as suggested above, the incorporation of PCB’s by marine organisms is possible. Polychlorinated biphenyls have recently been observed in pelagic Sargassum and oceanic animals.
Here are a few definitions, for those who might not be familiar with all these words:
Pelagic means “Of, relating to, or living in open oceans or seas rather than waters adjacent to land or inland waters.”
Sargassum are “brown algae with rounded bladders forming dense floating masses in tropical Atlantic waters as in the Sargasso Sea.”
PCB‘s are persisten organic pollutants which bioaccumulate in animals and make their way up the food chain to poison us. Before they were banned, they were used as an additive in PVC.
Makes you want sushi, doesn’t it? What each of us should be asking is, if scientists have known about the problem of plastics in the ocean for so long, why are most of us just learning about it now? My first exposure to this issue was in 2007 upon reading the article, Plastic Ocean.
When did you first hear about it?