Researcher Compares Garbage Patch In Pacific Ocean To Floating ‘Landfill’

August 15, 2014 by admin  
Filed under plastic

LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A massive patch of garbage floating in the ocean between California and Hawaii continues to grow and have an adverse impact on the ecosystem, researchers announced Friday.

KNX 1070’s Bob Brill reports Capt. Charles Moore and his research team are returning to their home base in Long Beach after nearly two months at sea studying the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.

Researchers Compare Garbage Patch In Pacific Ocean To Floating ‘Landfill’

Moore was part of a crew of scientists assembled by the Algalita Marine Research Institute who lived for 30 days in July amid the debris to evaluate long-term trends and changes in the Gyre by merging data collected over the past 15 years with new 2014 data.

But after spending nearly two months at sea studying to display samples of plastic pollution and to transfer fish samples to area research labs for testing to determine the extent of toxic infiltration into the ecosystem, Moore said the garbage patch appears to be getting worse.

Moore, who has studied the debris patch known as the Pacific Gyre for over 15 years, said the amount of pollution in the North Pacific Ocean has grown exponentially from plastic and trash washed into the sea by tsunamis, storms and other disasters.

“My mind is blown,” said Moore. “It’s like an landfill got inundated with water and all the stuff in the landfill started floating.”

As many as hundreds of miles of concentrated floating plastic in the North Pacific is visible to the naked eye, according to Moore.

The vast majority of the garbage usually hits well north and south of Southern California because of natural barriers such as wind and currents, but plastics could alter endocrine systems that are vital to the health of both fish and humans, said Moore.

“Enlarged and discolored livers in the fish, we’re looking at hormone disruption, the kind of things that we see in fish that are impacted by plastics in rivers,” Moore said. “We already know that many fish that are male have been feminized living downstream from places where there are chemical pollutants.”

Scientists say the primary risk with synthetic plastic debris is it can be easily confused with natural food due to its small sizes and lower-than-seawater density.

Moore and his crew are scheduled to dock at Alamitos Bay Landing in Long Beach around 4 p.m., according to officials.

Article source: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2014/08/15/researchers-compare-garbage-patch-in-pacific-ocean-to-floating-landfill/

For ocean critters, plastic packs double whammy

January 16, 2013 by admin  
Filed under Water Quality

Products made from the particular plastic used to make water bottles (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) might have fewer detrimental chemical impacts than products made from other types of plastic, according to the study, published online in Environmental Science Technology.

The research, conducted for 12 months at five locations in San Diego Bay, was the first controlled, long-term field experiment measuring the absorption of contaminants by the five most common plastics:

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): Recycling symbol #1, like water bottles.
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE): Recycling symbol #2, like detergent bottles.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): Recycling symbol #3, like clear food packaging.
  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE): Recycling symbol #4, like plastic shopping bags.
  • Polypropylene (PP): Recycling symbol #5, like yogurt containers, bottle caps.

The researchers deployed pellets of each plastic type in mesh bags tied to a dock at each study site. They retrieved them periodically to measure the plastics’ absorption of persistent organic pollutants.

“Consistently in our study, we found polyethylene [HDPE and LDPE] and polypropylene [PP] absorbed much greater concentrations of contaminants than PET or PVC, and those are the most commonly mass produced and consumed plastics,” says Chelsea Rochman, a doctoral student in ecology at University of California, Davis and San Diego State University. ”They are also the most commonly recovered as marine debris.”

In 2007, HDPE, LDPE, and PP accounted for 62 percent of all plastics produced globally, while PVC and PET represented only 19 percent and 7 percent, the study says.

The data imply that products made from HDPE, LDPE, and PP may pose a greater chemical risk to marine animals that ingest plastics than products made from PET and PVC. The study notes that, although PVC did not absorb as many contaminants as did other plastics, vinyl chloride is classified as carcinogenic and toxic.

Rochman expected the pellets would absorb an increasing amount of pollutants for the first several months of the study before reaching equilibrium—the point at which they could not absorb further toxic substances.

However, Rochman found that HDPE and LDPE continued to absorb contaminants throughout the 12 months. The study estimates that, at the Shelter Island study site, it would take 44 months for HDPE and 19 months for LDPE to stop absorbing toxic substances.

“It surprised us that even after a year, some plastics would continue to take up contaminants,” Rochman says. “As the plastic continues to degrade, it’s potentially getting more and more hazardous to organisms as they absorb more and more contaminants.”

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program funded the study, as did the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the San Diego State University Research Foundation, and the Padi Foundation.

Source: UC Davis

Article source: http://www.futurity.org/earth-environment/for-ocean-critters-plastic-packs-double-whammy/