Australian waters polluted by harmful tiny plastics

Nov 28, 2013
Australian waters polluted by harmful tiny plastics

Each square kilometre of Australian sea surface water is contaminated by around 4000 pieces of tiny plastics that could affect humans as well as marine life according to researchers from The University of Western Australia and CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship.

Their study published in the international journal Plos One reported the were mostly a result of the breakdown of disposable packaging and fishing gear made of polyethylene and polypropylene. These two polymers are commonly used to make everyday items, such as water bottles and plastic cups.

Lead author and PhD student Julia Reisser, from UWA's Oceans Institute, said the plastics detected during the at-sea surveys could contain hazardous materials as well as pollutants absorbed from surrounding waters.

"There is increasing evidence that marine animals, ranging from plankton to whales, ingest large amounts of plastics loaded with pollutants, which may then be incorporated into the food chain," Ms Reisser said.

Previous studies have detected microplastics in the stomachs of southern bluefin tuna captured close to Tasmania and destined for human consumption. This means marine plastic pollution may be harmful to humans too.

The study provides the first map of the distribution of floating marine plastics in Australian waters. Winthrop Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi, who supervised Ms Reisser, said hotspots of plastics had been found offshore near highly populated areas as well as in regions where ocean currents converged.

Ms Reisser said results of the study demonstrated it was vital to take action to reduce marine pollution.

"We need to decrease plastic waste and toxicity, regulate plastic disposal on land at an international level, and better enforce the laws prohibiting dumping plastics at sea."

Explore further: Researchers study microplastic pollution effect on ocean ecology

More information: www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0080466

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

First map of floating plastics to help save baby turtles

Jun 18, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A PhD student at The University of Western Australia is creating the first map to show the distribution of floating marine plastics in Australian waters, and models that chart the likely pathways ...

Plastic waste is a hazard for subalpine lakes too

Oct 07, 2013

Many subalpine lakes may look beautiful and even pristine, but new evidence suggests they may also be contaminated with potentially hazardous plastics. Researchers say those tiny microplastics are likely ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

FMA
5 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2013
That's not Australians' own problem, this problem is everywhere around the world; too many selfish people.

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...