How does ocean plastic affect human health?

Plastic pollution This represents a major threat to human health, as microplastics have been linked to cancer, reduced fertility, psychological illnesses and birth defects. Plastics often contain a large amount of toxic chemicals including neurotoxins, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors. This isn't surprising given that a dump truck full of plastic ends up in the ocean every minute. There are efforts to protect the oceans from plastic pollutants along with human health, but they are mostly grassroots organizations.

This web article talks specifically about the Atlantic garbage patch and plastic pollution in the ocean. Rolf Halden, associate professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University, has studied the adverse effects of plastic on humans and, so far, has concluded that it is almost impossible to determine an exact summary of the effects of plastic on human health. Plastics are not biodegradable and bacteria that are known to cause human diseases tend to grow on the surface of the plastic. Although the health impacts of plastics are still a fairly new area of research, scientific results obtained to date indicate that toxic chemical additives and contaminants found in plastics threaten human health on a global scale.

If you use plastic water bottles, you've probably been warned that plastic reaches the water you drink. The wide-scale adoption of the principles and practices of green chemistry, together with a broad movement towards a circular economy, could reduce the pollution of the world's oceans caused by manufactured chemicals and plastic waste and end the need to balance the dangers of toxic chemicals in seafood with the obvious benefits of seafood for human health. The recent increases in marine plastic pollution reflect a massive growth in plastic production (Figure), which now exceeds 420 million tons per year. An article about how plastic breaks down in the ocean and is ingested by seabirds states that humans will also be affected by toxins.

The following resources present several initiatives in Geneva and beyond aimed at strengthening the links between plastics and health, and at addressing the plastic crisis to protect human health. A continuous reduction in fish populations and ocean productivity can be expected in the coming years due to the combined effects of pollution, sea surface warming, ocean acidification and other large scale ecological impacts. Marine species can also be harmed and killed by being trapped in abandoned fishing gear, plastic nets and plastic rings that are trapped on reefs or drifting in the water column. Plastic pollution is one of the most widespread and visible threats to ocean health today.

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