You hear a lot of stories on the news about pollution, but a lot of people wonder how bad is marine pollution really? Different sources have conducted research about pollution in our oceans, and we want to talk about it. In this article, we’ll answer the question and show you just how bad marine pollution really is.
Define Marine Pollution
To make things easier, we should give you a quick definition of marine pollution. It refers to chemicals, materials, particles, waste, and organisms in our oceans that don’t belong there. A simple example is a water bottle floating down a river. A more extreme example is a massive offshore oil spill.
Where is Ocean Pollution Coming From?
Ocean pollution is coming from a ton of different sources including:
- Humans throwing trash
- Chemical spills
- Oil spills
- General runoff from factories
In general, materials are going into the ocean that can’t break down. Things like plastics, styrofoam, and cigarette filters can take between 50 and 1,000 years to fully degrade.
On top of that, chemicals are flowing into the ocean from a number of sources. Altogether, billions of pounds of pollutants and trash make their way into our oceans every year.
If a factory has chemicals on the ground near the facility, there’s a potential for runoff. When it rains, the rain will take these chemicals and guide them to the nearest drain. In some cases, runoff makes its way into rivers or water sources.
Now that the chemicals are introduced to the water source, they will start killing marine animals and hurting humans if ingested. Some countries don’t regulate or uphold rules surrounding runoff. Even worse, some factories are free to dump their chemicals in nearby bodies of water.
How is Ocean Pollution Affecting Humans?
You might think that trash in the ocean isn’t a big deal. After all, we live on land, so who cares if there’s a little trash floating around out there? Well, contamination in the oceans is responsible for 250 million verified clinical cases in humans yearly. People are getting very sick because of marine pollution.
It also contaminates the food that we eat. 50,000 to 100,000 deaths a year are due to eating contaminated shellfish.
These ailments, illnesses, and deaths are costing humans a lot of money. A predicted 16 billion dollars a year is directly linked to health costs due to polluted waters.
This problem isn’t an example of “out of sight, out of mind”. Marine pollution is killing us silently, and we can stop it by recycling and being more conscientious about our footprint. After all, 70% of all the oxygen that we breathe comes from the sea. If we kill the marine animals off, we’ll be next.
How Bad Is Marine Pollution Really?
Marine plastic pollution is worse than you probably think. More than 100,000 marine animals are found dead every year, wrapped up in plastic. Pollution in our oceans is killing us. Here are three more examples of how bad this level of pollution is:
90 Percent of Seabirds Have Plastic in Their Stomachs — Here’s How We Helped Clean Up Ocean Trash
The ocean is currently littered with more than 50 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 269,000 tons — or more than 1000…
The Pacific Garbage Patch
Some waste is too heavy and doesn’t float in water. Therefore, it will settle to the bottom of the ocean, and new waste will build on top of it. Eventually, this waste becomes a patch of trash that forms something like an island of trash.
A notable patch is called the Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s made up of 1.6 million square kilometers of trash between California and Hawaii. It swirls around the ocean’s currents and little is being done about it. This is just one example — there are five confirmed garbage patches across the world.
These patches can interfere with marine animal migration, food sources, and their ability to eat.
Microplastics in Ocean Animals
Scientists recently discovered microplastics in marine animals. However, these plastics can hardly be seen by the naked eye, and are dangerous to marine and human health.
A 2015 study took a close look at the plastic entering our oceans. They estimated that 8 million tons (16 billion pounds) of plastic is going into the ocean every year. But, we only see about 1% of that plastic floating on the top of the ocean.
Why? The rest of the plastic — like a plastic water bottle — is breaking down into microplastics and moving around in the water. While fish eat and swim around, these microplastics are going into their bodies. Their digestive tract can’t break these down, and if enough gets consumed by the fish, they’ll die. Even if they don’t die from it, the microplastics are still present in the fish’s body. When the fish are caught, sold, cooked, and eaten — these microplastics make their way into humans’ bodies.
This is a huge problem because microplastics can contain toxic chemicals. These chemicals have been linked to cancer and serious human health issues. You can only imagine how harmful it is for us to unknowingly eat them.
Chemicals in Plastics
It’s not just microplastics that have chemicals in them. A lot of plastic manufacturers will include toxic chemicals to help the plastic behave in different ways. It might make a pen more rigid or allow plastic bottles to be thinner without breaking open.
Chemicals like PVC, phthalates, and BPA are very dangerous when ingested. They’re linked to cancer, infertility, and hormone disruption. When these pieces of plastic are floating in the ocean, they start spreading the chemicals into the water source. As a result, fish are exposed to these chemicals, and when we eat the fish, we become further exposed, as well. Some of these chemicals are hard to treat and remove from our water sources.
What Makes Ocean Pollution So Bad?
As you can see, ocean pollution is a huge problem. The magnitude and scale of things are hard to comprehend. If things don’t change, marine pollution will just get worse.
The long-term effect is very negative on our lives. Known cancer-causing chemicals are being released into our sources of water. These chemicals are being ingested by marine animals that are later eaten by us. They’re also present in the water that we drink.
A big way to help is to commit to recycling and upcycling. At Miniwiz, we have a whole list of solutions that can help you minimize your impact. If we all work together, we can help clean up our oceans and stop the needless pollution.