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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

4/29/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Researchers believe there may be 27 times more plastic in the oceans than currently estimated.

An oceanographer is suggesting that plastic pollution in the ocean may by as much as 2.5 times worse than presently estimated saying that winds may be driving much of the trash underwater.

This bird likely died from eating plastic and other debris harvested from the ocean. The indigestible bits of plastic that lodged themselves inside can be easily seen.

This bird likely died from eating plastic and other debris harvested from the ocean. The indigestible bits of plastic that lodged themselves inside can be easily seen.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/29/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Plastic, oceans, scientists, Proskurowski, Kukulka


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Giora Proskurowski says he saw bits of plastic debris floating on the surface disappear when winds picked up leading him to suspect that much of the plastic debris in the ocean is below the surface. 

Proskurowski did research with Tobias Kukulka of the University of Delaware, finding that there may be more than 2.5 times the amount of plastic swirling in the world's oceans creating serious hazards for marine life - much more. By their highest estimate, there could be 27 times more plastic in the oceans than currently predicted.

The ambiguity comes from the method of measurement - scientists have only been measuring plastic debris on the surface since they do not have the means to accurately measure how much is floating below the surface or lying on the sea floor. 

Their research also suggests that winds cause plastic debris to submerge where it is difficult to measure.

Proskurowski and Kukulka tested their theory by lowering a special net to varying depths and opening it for set periods of time. Proskurowski said, "Almost every subsurface tow we took had plastic in the net."

The study suggests most of the plastic in the oceans is in the top layer of water between 82 feet and the surface. 

The scientists also found substantial quantities of plastic that had broken into tiny grains measured in millimeters.  

Plastic is dangerous to aquatic life because it is frequently ingested by animals. Many creatures can mistake plastic objects for food and will ingest the plastic where it becomes lodged in their bodies. Contaminated bits of plastic that still carry residue of toxic substances can poison other animals. 

Over very long periods of time, the plastic breaks down into polymers and tinier particles, eventually making its way into smaller elements of the food chain. At every stage, the pollution wreaks havoc and kills organisms. 

There are no estimates of how many creatures die because of plastic contamination but the numbers are thought to be substantial. Certainly, filling the oceans up with trash cannot be a good thing. 

 

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