The Unholy Spawn of Oil Spills and Microplastics

On the East coast of Tenerife, the biggest of the Canary Islands, stretches Playa Grande, with its clear waters and fine sand. Clamber up one of its outcrops, though, and you may notice something amiss: Much of this rock is darker, squishier, and hotter than the rest, and dotted with colorful sprinkles. Sounds cheerful, yes, but it’s actually a diabolical new kind of pollution.

The scientists who just discovered the horror are calling it “plastitar.” It’s tar from oil spills mixed with the multicolored microplastics that are spewing totally unchecked into the world’s oceans. (Microplastics are bits of plastic waste less than 5 millimeters long.)…

It’s important to note that Hernández-Borges and his colleagues were looking for particles as small as 1 millimeter, which means many, many smaller bits evaded detection. As microplastics science has progressed, researchers have started to test for nanoplastics—particles smaller than a millionth of a meter. A load of laundry can release trillions of these nanoplastics into the sea.

A portrait of things to come…globally? Of course.

Disease linked to microplastics in your gut

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Scientists around the world have been ringing alarm bells about microplastics, tiny particles now found in pregnant people’s bodies, in the deepest reaches of the Earth’s oceans and unfortunately, your gut. For years it’s been unclear how these tiny pollution particles affect human health, but continued research is starting to zero in on the consequences.

Case in point, a new study by scientists in China found a link between microplastics and IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease…

According to Science Alert, it’s not clear whether people with IBD have more trouble filtering plastic out of their body, causing the increased levels, or whether the plastic itself causes the disease. What is clear, though, is that there’s some kind of link between chronic gut issues and microplastics exists, and it’s strong.

Scientists say we’re reaching an irreversible tipping point in the fight against plastic pollution. Once chemicals and particles enter our bodies, they may be with us for generations, and it’s not exactly easy to comb the Earth for microscopic particles.

Another cheerful news note to start off the New Year, eh?

Tiny bits of plastic are a significant part of global pollution

Ocean plastic pollution is an urgent and global problem … Most of the attention paid to the issue has focused on daily-use goods such as food and consumer product packaging. However, Pew found that tiny fragments known as microplastics make up significant amounts of ocean plastic pollution that are often not accounted for in pollution estimates or possible solutions …

Although there is no standard definition of microplastics, they are commonly defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters—about the diameter of a standard pencil eraser. Despite their size, studies have shown that microplastics are major contributors to plastic pollution and are found widely in the environment—from high up Mount Everest to the deep sea—and even in humans and other animals …

Alarming studies regularly come out with new information about the impacts and growing scale of the microplastics problem, but there is still hope for fixing it. With concerted action that begins now, we can greatly reduce the plastic pollution flowing into our lands, rivers, and oceans over the next two decades.

RTFA, learn more about the problem and check out some of the latest ideas on how to counter this flavor of pollution. Too many of our politicians think the only side they need to defend is the one that brings jobs to their local voters … and campaign dollar$ into their bank account.