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Let's Go Down To The Sea ... In Plastic?


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Let's go down to the sea ... in plastic?

Maybe it really is over for us, just as it eventually was for Greece and Rome and all the rest.

What, these days, dominates our media-saturated Internet-centric politics?

Endless debates about homosexuality, the question of whether John Kerry is bright enough to pour you-know-what out of a boot, Madonna's adoption of a kid from Africa, and on and on.

It's an age when newspapers struggle to find readership, but grocery stores barely have room for all the magazines devoted to celebrity worship. (In a twisted reversal, that worship is expressed in the magazines' focus on celebrities' weight problems, personality flaws and dysfunctional relationships.)

Meanwhile, a friend, Michael O'Donovan, whose concerns about his daughter's asthma led him to take an activist role on air pollution, lent me a magazine I have never heard of -- Best Life -- and I got a glimpse of where our inattention is taking us.

In its November issue, the magazine about men's health reports on what scientists call the Eastern Garbage Patch.

It is an area of the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and California, about twice the size of Texas. What makes it stand out is that it is, the magazine reports, "a stew of plastic crap."

Also called the North Pacific subtropical gyre, it is an ocean "vortex" formed by swirling tides and air movements that accumulate debris. In this case, plastic debris stretching for hundreds of miles.

Discovery of the site in 1997 by an ocean racer named Charles Moore lead him to found the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (algalita.org) to learn more about the impact of all that plastic.

And there's a lot of it. BestLife reports 60 billion tons of plastic are created every year ... and according to Moore, "except for the tiny amount that's been incinerated ... every bit of plastic ever made still exists."

Each American, the report says, tosses out 185 pounds of plastic a year.

What happens to it? Way too much disseminates into the environment, and then works its way back into our bodies.

In fact, it seems to be everywhere.

Scientists are finding increasing numbers of dead seabirds stuffed with plastic; one had 1,603 pieces, including "bottle caps, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators and colored scraps. ..."

The magazine said one study indicates pellets of raw plastic -- called nurdles -- account for 10 percent of plastic ocean debris due to "sloppy transport" that spills them. These pellets soak up pollutants like DDT and PCBs, long banned in the United States but stubbornly persistent in the environment.

Worse, these nurdles and other plastics are breaking down into tiny particles that, in the water, resemble fish eggs and even plankton -- fish food. The fish eat them -- and we eat the fish.

Using mesh nets to collect samples, Moore's research in the gyre found, by weight, six times more plastic than plankton in the water. They're even finding the sand on remote Pacific island beaches inundated with plastic.

Meanwhile, scientists say, we also absorb the myriad chemicals by storing and packaging food in plastic, from physical contact and even breathing in fumes (that "new car" smell is, in part, the result of fresh plastic materials "off-gassing," especially when heated by the sun).

Scientists fear the impact of these chemicals, many of which have never been tested, on human bodies -- especially unborn and young ones. These chemicals can act as "estrogen mimickers" that can disrupt basic human development (estrogen is a key biological regulator).

Intriguingly -- and frighteningly -- scientists are finding a link between plastics and obesity. While many blame high-fructose corn syrup for adding calories and disrupting liver function related to insulin, a University of Missouri at Columbia study found a link in rats between prenatal exposure to bisphenol A (a chemical in some plastics) and obesity after birth. "Their insulin output surged wildly and then crashed into a state of resistance -- the virtual definition of diabetes. They produced bigger fat cells, and more of them," the magazine reported.

If that follows with people, the report says, it could help explain the epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

Oh well ... I wonder what Angelina Jolie is up to?

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Guest danielinbyron

The first bf tuna we caught at brunswick heads had a perfectly legible Bondi cola label in its stomich contents{ complete with details for a competition }, the first jew in the hawkesbury had an entire {folded} coathanger in its gut. go figure.

And as far as the States go , long after they banned , ddt , 245t and 2/4d I was handing it over the counter to Farmers at the hardware store I worked in as a teenager as Dieldron.. weed killer. It was a mixture of all the chemicals banned from the states and dumped on us .. apparently v effective.And allot like agent orange.

Edited by danielinbyron
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