Plastic Waste May Be Lethal to Marine Life

SHEFFIELD, England, March 30 (UPI) — British scientists say they’ve determined plastic waste floating in the ocean can produce microbes that are potentially lethal to marine life.

The scientists from the University of Sheffield and Britain’s Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science said they’ve shown the combination of marine microbes that can grow on plastic waste varies significantly from microbial groups that colonize surfaces in the wider environment.

That, said researcher Jesse Harrison from the University of Sheffield, raises the possibility plastic-associated marine microbes have different activities that could contribute to the breakdown of the plastics or the toxic chemicals associated with them.

“Plastics form a daily part of our lives and are treated as disposable by consumers,” Harrison said. “As such, plastics comprise the most abundant and rapidly growing component of man-made litter entering the oceans.”

But, he added, over time the size of plastic fragments in the oceans decreases as a result of exposure to natural forces. Tiny fragments of 5 millimeters or less are called “microplastics” and are particularly dangerous, Harrison said, since they can absorb toxic chemicals that are transported to marine animals when ingested.

The researchers, led by Sheffield University senior lecturer Mark Osborn, presented their findings Sunday during a meeting of the Society for General Microbiology in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Categorized | Chemicals, Other
One Response to “Plastic Waste May Be Lethal to Marine Life”
  1. Jesse Harrison says:

    Thank you for your interest. I would just like to correct the first sentence in your story. The plastic does not produce microbes – instead, microbes from the wider environment become attached to plastic. These microbes could be able to break down potentially dangerous chemicals that have become associated with the plastic, so the microbes may actually “clean up” plastic instead of making it more dangerous. Finally, I studied the seabed environment instead of plastics that float.


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