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Ocean Pollution

There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans, what can we do to reduce the amount of pollution?

Tons of plastic and other debris that are carelessly dumped into our oceans are swirling in currents, breaking into smaller components and never going away. The world's oceans are covered in trash that either degrades and sinks to the bottom or drifts onto our shores. Marine debris has a massive impact on not only wildlife, but humans as well. Sea turtles, seals, sea lions, seagulls, whales, and dolphins are only five of the marine animals dying from our plastic trash. These creatures depend on us—why are we being so shellfish?

What is Ocean Pollution?

The largest bodies of water on planet Earth are our oceans so it's important that we take care of them. Ocean Pollution is when harmful substances enter the ocean and cause negative changes. A countless amount of human activities over the last few decades have deteriorated the health of the ocean's marine life; dumping oil, plastic, chemicals, industrial and agricultural waste have all harshly impacted our beautiful blue seas, but how exactly? Through six main causes:

  1. Sewage releases chemicals into the ocean which affect the oxygen levels, the decay of plants and the image of the water itself. 
  2. Toxic substances from industries directly harm creatures because it is hazardous and raises the overall temperature of the ocean. Animals end up dying because they cannot adapt to the rise in temperature. 
  3. Land runoff commonly occurs when flooding happens, all of the fertilizers and waste from land animals flow into the ocean making it detrimental to the ocean by creating "dead zones," a place where nothing lives or exists.  
  4. Oil spills usually happen from ship pollution. They are extremely difficult to clean up which means they stay where they are for years and years, trapping sea creatures and practically suffocating them. This is not the only problem with ship pollution. Ships often lose crates due to storms and accidents, this causes noise pollution which then causes creatures to venture off into other ecosystems and interfere with the life cycles of other species. 
  5. Ocean mining is when individuals drill in hopes of finding silver, copper and gold. Deep sea mining causes permanent damage to the lowest levels of the ocean and the toxicity of the region.
  6. Littering is the most popular cause of ocean pollution. The atmosphere is a big factor in polluting the ocean through winds blowing foreign objects in the water along with sand and dust. Tropical storms like hurricanes and tsunamis are big ocean contaminants. Plastic is one of the biggest issues since it cannot decompose and stays in the water for years until it washes up on shore. Animals can become caught in these pieces of plastic or mistaken it for food, both can either harm them gravely or kill them. The most common victims of plastic are sea turtles, dolphins, fish, sharks, crabs, seagulls and crocodiles. Another item that is commonly found on our beaches besides plastic are cigarette butts, in 2014, almost 2.2 billion cigarette butts were found in an international coastal clean-up! Butts take years to degrade as they are made with plastic and when they finally do, harmful toxins are released!

The list goes on. There are still various other ways our oceans are being harmed. We want to stop disrupting our coral reefs, increase our oxygen levels, reduce the failure within our marine life's reproductive systems, and stop allowing chemicals into the oceans. Essentially, this lets smaller fish to ingest toxic chemicals and when bigger fish eat those smaller fish, it impacts the entire food chain, including us. When we consume impacted animals, toxic chemicals enter our bodies and get deposited into our tissues, leading to long-term effects such as cancer, birth defects and other long-term health problems. 

How does ocean pollution effect humans?

Swimming in polluted water can really affect the health of the swimmer. Some illnesses associated with polluted waters are stomach flu, skin rashes, pink-eye, respiratory infections, meningitis, and hepatitis. Not only can you suffer from waterborne pathogens due to pollution, but you can acquire injuries from litter hiding in the sand such as broken glass bottles and cutting your foot open. It's better to be safe than sorry, dispose of your trash properly to keep yourself and your peers safe!

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Approximately twice the size of Texas, hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the best way to prove that our careless human activity is violating our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was discovered in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore. It is a colossal swirling mass of debris, a combination of both the Eastern Garbage Patch (near Japan) and the Western Garbage Patch (between Hawaii and California). Majority of the Pacific Trash Vortex is not biodegradable since it is made mostly of plastic. Plastic does not wear down, it only breaks down into smaller bits and pieces, known as "microplastics," these cannot be seen with the naked eye. Although, most people see the floating mass as an island of debris, it is almost entirely covered in microplastics. In a recent study, it was proven that merely 70 percent of the items sink to the bottom of the ocean, what we see on the surface is only the tip of the iceberg. 

It was predicted that by 2050, we will see yearly plastic production quadruple to 100 million tons. How much bigger will this Great Pacific Garbage Patch get? It is growing and we are the ones feeding it. 

How can we help keep our oceans clean?

Here is a list of simple changes you could make to your daily life to impact the environment less long-term:

  • Use reusable bags instead of plastic bags!
  • Avoid use of unnecessary plastic straws, instead consider reusable straws. Same with cups, instead of those disposable-plastic red solo cups, consider investing in a reusable water bottle!
  • Participate in beach clean-ups!
  • Encourage politicians to pass green legislation!
  • Use an ash-tray on the beach instead of dropping your cigarette butts!
  • Avoid bringing foods in wrappers to the beach, think about reusable containers! 
  • Support global movements, specifically "4OCEAN," they actively are removing trash from the ocean and coastlines while inspiring individuals to work together for cleaner oceans! Purchase one of their bracelets made from recycled materials and they will remove one pound of trash from the ocean!
  • Learn how to properly dispose of your garbage and recycle!
  • Do your own research on how you can help!

Be considerate of our marine life. Keep beaches and waterways clean. Get involved and spread the word!

Let's turn the tide on this global issue! 

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