Scientists Sail to Pacific Plastic Garbage Patch
It’s not your average garbage dump: Out in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean lies the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” an area of open sea hundreds of miles across littered with floating bits of plastic debris.
Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego have set out on a research ship to investigate this marine wastebin and examine its effects on marine wildlife, Reuters reports.
The plastic pieces are hemmed in by circular ocean currents and mostly float near the surface of the water.
Researchers are concerned not only about the effect of the plastic itself — which has been shown to be a major cause of death in endangered leatherback turtles — but also the chemicals, such as pesticides, that the plastic might carry out into the marine environment.
Not all of this plastic is visible to the human eye — ocean water can eventually break down plastic into microscopic particles. Pollutants can stick more easily to these tiny particles, and harm any sea life that unintentionally gobbles them up. Small animals at the base of the food chain eat them, then pass them up the food chain in ever-increasing concentrations as they themselves are eaten by larger animals.
by Andrea Thompson