Author Archives: Michelle Mech

Industrial fishing happening over half of the oceans, say scientists

The world’s most comprehensive analysis of shipping data shows industrial fishing is taking place across more than 55 percent of the oceans, with scientists saying the information could help to conserve stocks and assist local fishermen.

By crunching 22 billion messages sent by vessels’ automatic identification systems (AIS) between 2012 and 2016, researchers identified more than 70,000 ships and could pinpoint, among other things, where and for how long they were fishing.

The researchers, who included members from Google and the National Geographic Society, said the study provided “an unprecedented” ability to better manage the oceans’ resources.

“This new real-time data set will be instrumental in designing improved management of the world’s oceans that is good for the fish, ecosystems and fishermen,” said researcher Chris Costello of the University of California Santa Barbara.

 Overfishing and illegal fishing by commercial vessels inflict significant damage on fisheries and the environment, and take food and jobs from millions of people in coastal communities who rely on fishing, environmental groups have said.

Global demand for fish is increasing, while nearly 90 percent of world stocks are overfished or fully exploited, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The study was recently published in the journal Science, and showed that ships fished less in places where stocks were better managed. Researchers said that meant well-enforced policies could combat over-exploitation.

And while most countries fish inside their own exclusive economic zones, it found just five countries – China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea – account for 85 percent of fishing on the high seas.

Ships with AIS ping their identity and position every few seconds. But because only large vessels must have AIS, and as parts of the ocean are not covered by satellites, researchers said the true extent was likely higher than 55 percent.

Heavily fished areas include the northeast Atlantic, northwest Pacific and areas off South America and West Africa.

The Southern Ocean, parts of the northeast Pacific and central Atlantic oceans, and the exclusive economic zones of many island states, showed much less activity – which could offer the chance to conserve marine life cheaply.

“The world’s oceans are the ultimate common resource,” David Kroodsma, the study’s lead author and a director at Global Fishing Watch, a project focused on fishing resources, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “They cover 70 percent of the planet, produce half of the oxygen that we breathe and they’re a major protein source for hundreds of millions of people.”


Industrial fishing happening over half of the oceans, say scientists

By Thin Lei Win, Editing by Robert Carmichael; Credit: the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, resilliance and climate change.

February 23, 2018 


Microplastics found in 93% of bottled water tested in global study

The bottled water industry is estimated to be worth nearly $200 billion a year, surpassing sugary sodas as the most popular beverage in many countries. But its perceived image of cleanliness and purity is being challenged by a global investigation that found the water tested is often contaminated with microplastics, tiny particles of plastic.

“Our love affair with making single-use disposable plastics out of a material that lasts for literally centuries — that’s a disconnect, and I think we need to rethink our relationship with that,” says Prof. Sherri Mason, a microplastics researcher who carried out the laboratory work at the State University of New York (SUNY).

The research was conducted on behalf of Orb Media, a U.S-based non-profit journalism organization with which CBC News has partnered.

… Mason’s team tested 259 bottles of water purchased in nine countries (none were bought in Canada). Though many brands are sold internationally, the water source, manufacturing and bottling process for the same brand can differ by country.The 11 brands tested include the world’s dominant players — Nestle Pure Life, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, San Pellegrino and Gerolsteiner — as well as major national brands across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Researchers found 93% of all bottles tested contained some sort of microplastic, including polypropylene, polystyrene, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

10.4 particles/litre on average

Microplastics (anything smaller than five millimetres in size) are the result of the breakdown of all the plastic waste that makes its way intolandfills and oceans. They are also manufactured intentionally, as microbeads used in skin care products. Microbeads [in cosmetics] are now being phased out in Canada, after significant numbers began to appear in the Great Lakes and the tiny particles were found filling the stomachs of fish.

  Scientists used Nile Red fluorescent tagging, an emerging method for the rapid identification of microplastics, as the dye binds to plastic. Scientists put the dyed water through a filter and then viewed samples under a microscope. (Orb Media) 

… Orb found on average there were 10.4 particles of plastic per litre that were 100 microns (0.10 mm) or bigger. This is double the level of microplastics in the tap water tested from more than a dozen countries across five continents, examined in a 2017 study by Orb that looked at similar-sized plastics.

Other, smaller particles were also discovered — 314 of them per litre, on average — which some of the experts consulted about the Orb study believe are plastics but cannot definitively identify.


The amount of particles varied from bottle to bottle: while some contained one, others contained thousands.

The purpose of the study was to establish the presence of the plastics in bottled water.

It’s unclear what the effect of microplastics is on human health, and no previous work has established a maximum safe level of consumption. There are no rules or standards for allowable limits of microplastics in bottled water in Canada, the United States and Europe. Rules and standards for other countries from the study are not known.

Two brands — Nestle and Gerolsteiner — confirmed their own testing showed their water contained microplastics, albeit at much lower levels than what Orb Media is reporting.

The water tested was purchased in the U.S., Kenya, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Mexico and Thailand, and represented a range of brands across several continents. It was shipped to the specialized lab at SUNY in Fredonia, N.Y.

Emerging science

Plastics are present nearly everywhere and can take hundreds of years to degrade, if at all. Many types only continue to break down into smaller and smaller particles, until they are not visible to the naked eye.

Plastics have also been known to act like a sponge, and can absorb and release chemicals that could be harmful if consumed by mammals and fish.

“It’s not straightforward,” said Prof. Max Liboiron of Memorial University in St John’s. “If you’ve ever had chili or spaghetti and you put it in Tupperware, and you can’t scrub the orange colour out, that’s a manifestation of how plastics absorb oily chemicals,” says Liboiron, director of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), which monitors plastic pollution.

The European Food Safety Authority suggests most microplastics will be excreted by the body. But the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has raised concerns about the possibility some particles could be small enough to pass into the bloodstream and organs.

It’s not clear how the plastic is getting into the bottled water — whether it’s the water source itself or the air or the manufacturing and bottling process.  “Even the simple act of opening the cap could cause plastic to be chipping off the cap,” Mason said.

  Prof. Sherri Mason carried out the laboratory work at the State University of New York (SUNY), on behalf of Orb Media. (Dave MacIntosh/CBC)

… There are no rules or standards for allowable limits of microplastics in bottled water in Canada, the United States and Europe. Rules and standards for other countries from the study are not known.
Microplastics are the result of the breakdown of all the plastic waste that makes its way into landfills and oceans. The purpose of the study was to establish the presence of the plastics in bottled water. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

Microplastics found in supermarket fish, shellfish

Researchers say it’s too soon to say what impact this has on food safety

Brandie Weikle, CBC News, 



Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic, studies show

Seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 plastic particles every year

15-Year Study Indicates Huge Increase in Pacific Ocean Microplastics

Amount of microplastics in the ocean is increasing rapidly.

Results show rapid increase in microplastic in the oceans.

Charles Moore, who first sailed the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997, has returned five times over 15 years to document the concentrations of plastic in the ocean.  His results show microplastics are accumulating at a rapid rate.

In 1997, sailboat captain Charles Moore sailed from Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean, taking a shortcut to his home port of Los Angeles after a sailing race. As he cut across the then-seldom-sailed stretch of ocean – the swirling North Pacific Gyre – he came upon an enormous accumulation of plastic trash and made it famous. He helped captured the public’s imagination around the problem of marine plastic pollution by writing about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

In February, two decades after his discovery, he reported a seemingly dramatic 60-fold increase in the tiny pieces of microplastic during his 15 years of study of the now-infamous ocean area. From 1999 to 2014, he and a team of researchers regularly returned to 11 sites across this area with Algalita, the nonprofit he founded, scooping up plastic samples using a manta trawl from Moore’s research catamaran in an attempt to quantify change in plastic over time.

His findings, he said in a press conference at the American Geophysical Union’s 2018 Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon, show that the tiny pieces of microplastic floating on the surface of the North Pacific Gyre have increased from 331,809 pieces per square kilometer counted in 1999 to 19,912,037 counted in 2014. This estimate is unique as there are no long-term studies documenting microplastic concentration increases in the North Pacific Gyre. That’s because scientists need an enormous number of samples to come to any conclusion about how concentrations change over time.

Moore’s research ship, Alguita, returns with these samples after four months in the North Pacific Ocean. Algalita Marine Research and Education has been studying ocean plastic pollution since 1999. Long Beach, CA, USA. (Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

However, there is also plenty of uncertainty in making these kinds of estimates. The center of the North Pacific’s swirling mass of water, which holds the highest plastic concentration, appears to be shifting over time, making accurate sampling more challenging. At the meeting, Moore clicked through slides of the North Pacific Gyre, modeled by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner at the University of Hawaii. The slides showed that the large gyre has a concentrated center that has shifted over time closer to the California coast.

“The gyre is not a static place and what our hypothesis is … was the amount of plastic sampled depends on how far it is from the moving center of the Garbage Patch,” Moore said. The results of his research will be published later this year.

While the North Pacific Gyre is commonly referred to as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” now Moore and other scientists like to describe the area instead as a soup filled with various-sized pieces of plastic debris. Although the patch is certainly enormous, its exact size is difficult to pinpoint because it is always shifting between the coasts of Hawaii and California, with a highly concentrated center that moves seasonally and over time with changing ocean conditions.

When making their calculations about the amount of plastic in the gyre, Maximenko and Hafner developed models that helped correct variability in ocean conditions due to currents, winds and waves. These factors can push plastic pieces down temporarily beneath the surface where they aren’t scooped up by researchers’ plastic trawling equipment, which only skims the ocean’s surface. Even when using these models, the amount of plastic still increased by a significant amount, Moore said.

Marcus Eriksen, marine plastic researcher and co-founder of ocean conservation organization 5 Gyres, said that while Moore’s study is an interesting analysis, he questions how accurate it could be because of how many plastic samples are needed to draw a conclusion about trends. In 2014, using the same trawl-sampling techniques as Moore, Eriksen co-authored a study estimating that globally at least 5.25 trillion plastic pieces are floating at or near the ocean’s surface – with nearly two trillion in the North Pacific Ocean alone. Moore, citing his data, believes that study’s estimates for the North Pacific numbers may be an underestimate.

“In my experience, if you sample the same spot one hour later, you’ll likely find a significant difference in plastic count and weight,” said Eriksen. “While the authors are probably correct about an increasing trend – and it is also difficult to understand the influence of the 2011 Japan tsunami event – we need more samples over time to really understand what’s going on.”

Moore acknowledges the variability in sampling for plastic in the North Pacific Gyre, and agrees on a need for more samples. But he emphasized that what’s certain is that the amount of plastic in the oceans, particularly microplastic, is increasing as humans increase their production of the material.

“Our plastic production will triple by 2050 and that’s when it’s predicted to be half-plastic, half-fish in the ocean” by weight, said Moore, citing a plastic impact estimate published by the World Economic Forum. “But we’re continuing to extract more and more fish, we’re making more and more fish sick, we’re catching more and more fish in ghost nets … so the estimate of half-plastic, half-fish by 2050 may be optimistic.”


15-Year Study Indicates Huge Increase in Pacific Ocean Microplastics

By Erica Cirino, News Deeply – Oceans Deeply, February 13, 2018

By 2050, the ocean is expected to contain more plastic than fish

Plastic soup

Plastics and plastic packaging are an integral and important part of the global economy. Plastics production has surged over the past 50 years, from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014, and is expected to double again over the next 20 years, as plastics come to serve increasingly many applications. Plastic packaging, the focus of this report, is and will remain the largest application; currently, packaging represents 26% of the total volume of plastics used. Plastic packaging not only delivers direct economic benefits, but can also contribute to increased levels of resource productivity – for instance, plastic packaging can reduce food waste by extending shelf life and can reduce fuel consumption for transportation by bringing packaging weight down.

While delivering many benefits, the current plastics economy also has important drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. Today, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy after a short first use. More than 40 years after the launch of the first universal recycling symbol, only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. When additional value losses in sorting and reprocessing are factored in, only 5% of material value is retained for a subsequent use. Plastics that do get recycled are mostly recycled into lower-value applications that are not again recyclable after use. The recycling rate for plastics in general is even lower than for plastic packaging, and both are far below the global recycling rates for paper (58%) and iron and steel (70–90%). In addition, plastic packaging is almost exclusively single-use, especially in business-to-consumer applications.

Plastic packaging generates significant negative externalities, conservatively valued by UNEP at $40 billion and expected to increase with strong volume growth in a business-as-usual scenario. Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean – which
is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. Estimates suggest that plastic packaging represents the major share of this leakage. The best research currently available estimates that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today. In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).

Sea Otter chewing on discarded cookie package; Sea turtle ingesting plastic bag.

The production of plastics draws on fossil feedstocks, with a significant carbon impact that will become even more significant with the projected surge in consumption. Over 90% of plastics produced are derived from virgin fossil feedstocks. This represents, for all plastics (not just plastic packaging), about 6% of global oil consumption, which is equivalent to the oil consumption of the global aviation sector. If the current strong growth of plastics usage continues as expected, the plastics sector will account for 20% of total oil consumption and 15% of the global annual carbon budget by 2050 (this is the budget that must be adhered to in order to achieve the internationally accepted goal to remain below a 2°C increase in global warming).  Even though plastics can bring resource efficiency gains during use, these figures show that it is crucial to address the greenhouse gas impact of plastics production and afteruse treatment.

Plastics often contain a complex blend of chemical substances, of which some raise concerns about potential adverse effects on human health and the environment. While scientific evidence on the exact implications is not always conclusive, especially due to the difficulty of assessing complex long-term exposure and compounding effects, there are sufficient indications that warrant further research and accelerated action.

Many innovations and improvement efforts show potential, but to date these have proved to be too fragmented and uncoordinated to have impact at scale. Today’s plastics economy is highly fragmented. The lack of standards and coordination across the value chain has allowed a proliferation of materials, formats, labelling, collection schemes and sorting and reprocessing systems, which collectively hamper the development of effective markets. Innovation is also fragmented. The development and introduction of new packaging materials and formats across global supply and distribution chains is happening far faster than and is largely disconnected from the development and deployment of corresponding after-use systems and infrastructure. At the same time, hundreds, if not thousands, of small-scale local initiatives are launched each year, focused on areas such as improving collection schemes and installing new sorting and reprocessing technologies. Other issues, such as the fragmented development and adoption of labelling standards, hinder public understanding and create confusion.

In overcoming these drawbacks, an opportunity beckons: using the plastics innovation engine to move the industry into a positive spiral of value capture, stronger economics and better environmental outcomes.

Featured image: Blue Planet II on BBC



The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics, page 7

World Economic Forum, January 2016


SEE ALSO:  15-Year Study Indicates Huge Increase in Pacific Ocean Microplastics

Researchers race to find the source of microplastics choking the world’s oceans

Groundbreaking research into one of the world’s most complex pollution problems is underway at B.C. labs

Scientists are growing increasingly concerned about microplastics in water and in the food chain, but they face some daunting challenges in the race to uncover the sources of the problem.

“We’re encountering a pollutant unlike any pollutant we’ve ever seen before,” says Dr. Peter Ross, director of ocean pollution research at the Vancouver Aquarium. “This is not a chemical pollutant, it’s a structural pollutant.”

Recent samples his team have taken off the B.C. coast contained up to 25,000 plastic particles and fibres in just one cubic metre of water.

Yes, some of it comes from plastic bags, foam packaging, cigarette butts and other remnants of the millions of tonnes of plastic debris slowly breaking down in the world’s oceans.

But there are some surprising sources, too, like laundry.

“A single sweater could release as much as 10,000 particles of microplastic fibres,” said Ross.

“That’s getting into the wastewater stream, and you have a million or two million people doing such laundry — it adds up.”

Sewage treatment plants may hold answers

But no one knows yet how washing your favourite fleece jacket fits into the bigger picture.

To find out, Ross is working with sewage treatment plants to measure the number and types of fibres in the water coming in, and later sampling the treated water as it flows out into the Fraser River to compare.

What they find could lead to changes in filtering techniques at treatment plants.

Water sampling is also being done out in the open ocean, revealing a mix of fibres and other microplastics, defined as anything smaller than five millimetres in size.

It’s a global issue, so everyone has an interest in reducing the amount of plastic being added to the world’s waterways. One estimate puts it at the equivalent of a garbage truckload every minute. At this rate, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

To home in on the problem, technicians at the Vancouver Aquarium lab recently began using a $325,000 infrared spectrometer like the kind usually found in crime labs.

It can identify the type of plastic from tiny samples.

‘It’s not going to give us the exact fingerprint,” says Ross. “It won’t say ‘Walmart fleece made in China,’ but it will confirm it is plastic, give us the category, tell us about additives and sometimes actually a manufacturer.”

. . .

Featured image:

This water sample taken by researchers in B.C.’s Strait of Georgia contained an average of 3,200 plastic particles per cubic metre of ocean. Other samples off Vancouver contained up to 25,000 particles. (Vancouver Aquarium)


B.C. researchers race to find the source of microplastics choking the world’s oceans

By Greg Rasmussen, CBC NEWS, March 11, 2017


‘Extraordinary’ levels of pollutants found in the world’s deepest ocean trenches

Presence of man-made chemicals in most remote place on planet shows nowhere is safe from human impact, say scientists.

Scientists have discovered “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the most remote and inaccessible place on the planet – the 10km deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.

Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” said Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University in the UK, who led the research.

“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” he said.

Jamieson’s team identified two key types of severely toxic industrial chemicals that were banned in the late 1970s, but do not break down in the environment, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These chemicals have previously been found at high levels in Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic and in killer whales and dolphins in western Europe.

The research, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests that the POPs infiltrate the deepest parts of the oceans as dead animals and particles of plastic fall downwards. POPs accumulate in fat and are therefore concentrated in creatures up the food chain. They are also water-repellent and so stick to plastic waste.

He said it was not unexpected that some POPs would be found in the deepest parts of the oceans: “When it gets down into the trenches, there is nowhere else for it to go. The surprise was just how high the levels were – the contamination in the animals was sky high.”


Left: A container of Spam rests at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep in the Mariana trench. Photograph: Noaa Office of Ocean Exploration

‘Right: Contamination was sky high’: two commensal amphipods on a sponge stalk in the Mariana trench. A commensal ophiuroid is seen at the top of the image. Photograph: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

. . . The results are both significant and disturbing, said the marine ecologist Katherine Dafforn at the University of New South Wales in Australia and not part of the research team: “The trenches are many miles away from any industrial source and suggests that the delivery of these pollutants occurs over long distances despite regulation since the 1970s.

“We still know more about the surface of the moon than that of the ocean floor,” Dafforn said. She said the new research showed that the deep ocean trenches are not as isolated as people imagine. “Jamieson’s team has provided clear evidence that the deep ocean, rather than being remote, is highly connected to surface waters. Their findings are crucial for future monitoring and management of these unique environments.”

POPs cause a wide range of damage to life, particularly harming reproductive success. Jamieson is now assessing the impact on the hardy trench creatures, which survive water pressures equivalent to balancing a tonne weight on a fingertip and temperatures of just 1C.

He is also examining the deep sea animals for evidence of plastic pollution, feared to be widespread in the oceans, which has been the focus of much recent attention, leading to bans on plastic microbeads in cosmetics in the UK and US. “I reckon it will be there,” he said. . . .

READ FULL ARTICLE and see more pictures and live feed at:

‘Extraordinary’ levels of pollutants found in 10km deep Mariana trench

By Damian Carrington, The Guardian

March 13, 2017


Image: Hirondellea gigas 2: The ultra-deepwater amphipod Hirondellea gigas from the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.  Photo: Dr. Alan Jamieson, Newcastle University

. . . The researchers, from the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute in the U.K., focused on two specific types of chemical pollutants: polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, both of which may cause a variety of adverse health effects, including neurological, immune and reproductive issues and even cancer (in humans). PCBs were once commonly used in electrical equipment before being banned over health and environmental concerns in the 1970s. The manufacture and import of PBDEs, which are typically used as flame retardants, has also been restricted in the U.S., although at least one common type of the chemical is still permitted.

Despite the reductions in their use, both PCBs and and PBDEs can still be detected in marine organisms today. Both have the potential to remain intact for long periods of time, often binding to other particles in the water that can then carry them throughout the ocean. They also have a tendency to “bioaccumulate,” meaning they can build up in marine organisms over time. Just last year, a study conducted by researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography suggested that certain organic pollutants, including PCBs and PBDEs, are widespread in fish throughout the world.

For the new study, the researchers checked for the presence of these chemicals in two of the world’s deepest ocean trenches — the Mariana trench in the Western Pacific, near the Mariana islands, and the Kermadec trench north of New Zealand.  To do so, the researchers deployed special devices called “deep-sea landers,” which are small vessels that are released from ships and drop to the bottom of the ocean before floating back up to the surface.

Each lander was equipped with special traps designed to catch tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods known to inhabit some of the ocean’s deepest and most extreme environments. Afterwards, the researchers tested the amphipods for the presence of PCBs and PBDEs.

They found that both PCBs and PBDEs were present in all species of amphipod in both trenches, and at all depths sampled — up to 10,000 metres deep in both locations. . .


‘No longer pristine’: Not even the world’s deepest ocean trenches are free of pollution, scientists discover

By Chelsea Harvey, Washington Post, February 14, 2017

‘No longer pristine’: Not even the world’s deepest ocean trenches are free of pollution, scientists discover


Banned chemicals from the 70s found in the deepest reaches of the ocean

The University of Aberdeen, February 14, 2017

Rapid growth in acidity in the Arctic ocean linked to climate change

The Arctic is suffering so many consequences related to climate change, it’s hard to know where to begin anymore. It’s warming more rapidly than almost any other part of the planet; its glaciers are melting and its sea ice is retreating; and its most iconic wildlife, including polar bears and walruses, are suffering.

But that’s not all — a new study, just out Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, indicates that the Arctic Ocean is also becoming more acidic, another consequence caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It’s a process that occurs when carbon dioxide dissolves out of the air and into the sea, lowering the water’s pH in the process.

Scientists believe acidification is occurring at varying rates all over the world. But this week’s study gives researchers renewed cause to worry about the Arctic, suggesting that a large — and increasing — swath of the ocean may have reached a level that’s dangerous for some marine organisms.

The new research focuses on the water concentrations of a mineral called aragonite, which is a form of calcium carbonate, a chemical compound that plankton, shellfish and even deep-sea corals use to build their hard outer shells. When ocean water becomes more acidic, chemical reactions occur that impede the formation of calcium carbonate and lower its concentration in the water, which can be a major threat for these marine animals.

These aragonite levels are a “very important parameter” which can be an indicator of how much carbon dioxide is dissolving into the sea, according to Liqi Chen, a scientist with China’s State Oceanic Administration and a co-author on the new study.

By analyzing data collected from the ocean during expeditions between 1994 and 2010, the scientists have found that some parts of the western Arctic Ocean are undersaturated with aragonite — in other words, their concentrations are lower than they could be. And these areas have expanded more than sixfold since the 1990s.

. . . “Models indicate that sea ice will continue to decrease and the prediction is that the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free in the summer by 2030,” they write. If this occurs, their projections suggest that the entire surface of the Arctic Ocean, up to about 30 meters deep, may be undersaturated with aragonite within two decades. And given the rate of expansion they’ve observed since 1994, they suggest that the entire western Arctic Ocean — up to 250 meters deep — could also become undersaturated within a few decades. . .

Featured Image: Ice floes in Baffin Bay above the Arctic Circle, seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent, in July 2008. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press via AP)


Scientists just measured a rapid growth in acidity in the Arctic ocean, linked to climate change

February 27, 2017

Nigerians Are Building Eco-Friendly Homes With Plastic Bottles And Mud

These colorful homes are bulletproof, fireproof, and can withstand earthquakes. They also maintain a comfortable temperature, produce zero carbon emissions, and are powered by solar and methane gas from recycled waste.

Plastic is everywhere. In fact, the environment is so riddled with it, researchers predict that 99% of all birds on this planet will have plastic in their gut by the year 2050.

It is not enough to persuade people to use less, plastic needs to be repurposed and reused to be kept out of landfills. Despite informative infographics, emotional statistics, and recycling programs, many nations – especially the United States – continue to toss plastics into landfills without much care.

This unfortunate reality has spurred many to get creative with the discarded byproducts of society. Some have used plastic waste to construct marvelous sculptures and raise awareness about the issue, while others are repurposing it entirely to construct eco-friendly homes.

As reports, the housing crisis has become so bad in Nigeria, nearly 16 million units are required to address the shortage. Because crafting traditional homes would be far too expensive for most, locals adopted the idea put forth by two NGOs and are now building plastic bottle homes.


The solution not only cuts costs for building a house, it is beneficial for the environment.

Founded by Kaduna-based NGO Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE), with help from London-based NGO Africa Community Trust, the project is solving two problems at once by addressing the homelessness issue and helping the environment. Not only will there be less plastic in landfills, the house is designed to produce zero carbon emissions.

In addition, it is completely powered by solar panels and methane gas from recycled human and animal waste.

To create a two-bedroom bottle house, workers fill plastic bottles with sand and then hold them together using mud and cement. This forms a solid wall that is stronger than cinder blocks.

That’s not all: These colorful homes are bulletproof, fireproof and can withstand earthquakes. They can also hold a comfortable temperature year round.

The buildings can be built to three stories, but no higher, due to the weight of the sand-filled bottles. And, of course, the magnificent diversity of recycled bottles give each house a unique and bright look.

A two-bedroom house requires 14,000 bottles to complete. To put this into perspective, Nigeria throws away three million bottles every day. Clearly, there are plenty of bottles which can be repurposed to build every individual in their own abode.

See FULL ARTICLE and more pictures at:

Nigerians Are Building Fireproof, Bulletproof, And Eco-Friendly Homes With Plastic Bottles And Mud

Source: | Original Post Date: November 2, 2015


Microbead bans are good news, but they don’t go far enough

The United States and Canada have recently passed bans on microbeads. In Canada this covers “any personal hair, skin, teeth or mouth care products for cleansing or hygiene, including exfoliants and any of those products that is also a natural health product as defined in the Natural Health Products Regulations or a non-prescription drug”. In The U.S., this covers “rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads”.

In The U.K., members of Britain’s Parliament are calling for a worldwide ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics, to be imposed as soon as possible.

However, plastic microbeads are utilized as ‘exfolients’ or ‘scrubbers’ not only in many cosmetics, but also in household, boat, and industrial cleaning products and are one of the four major sources of microplastics in the oceans. They likely represent the type of microplastic that is the easiest to eradicate.  (The others major sources of microplastics are pre-production plastic pellets, fibres from synthetic clothing, and degradation of larger plastic items and pieces.)

As stated on the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s ‘Microbeads’ website, products containing plastic microbeads include “cleaning products and printer toners and industrial products such as abrasive media (e.g., plastic blasting), industry (e.g., oil and gas exploration, textile printing, and automotive molding), other plastic products (anti-slip, anti-blocking applications) and medical applications”.  The current Canadian government amended Canada’s originally proposed regulations, which included these products and therefore was much more inclusive and would have had a significantly greater impact on reducing plastics in the ocean.

If a worldwide ban on plastic microbeads is put in place, it should include all products that utilize them.  And Canada should immediately extend its ban on plastic microbeads to include these products.

By Michelle Mech

04 February 2017

Featured image: 5 Gyres




In June, 2016, microbeads were officially declared toxic by Environment Canada.  The federal government will ban the sale of shower gels, toothpaste and facial scrubs containing plastic microbeads, effective July 1, 2018.

This sets Canada on a timetable that follows the United States for removing the tiny pollutant from Canadian waters.

Microbeads found in natural health products and non-prescription drugs will be prohibited a year later, on July 1, 2019.

. . . The tiny pieces of plastic, less than five millimetres in size, are used as exfoliants and cleansers in toiletries but do not dissolve. They then find their way into oceans, lakes and rivers where the beads are ingested by a variety of organisms.

In 2014, about 100,000 kilograms of plastic microbeads were imported into Canada for exfoliants and cleansers, while as much as 10,000 more kilograms were used in the domestic manufacture of personal care products.


Canadian government moves to ban plastic microbeads in toiletries by July 2018

By The Canadian Press

November 4, 2016



Polyethylene plastic beads don’t disintegrate or biodegrade,and about 8 trillion beads ― enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts ― end up in waterways across the United States every day.

In December, Stiv Wilson [5 Gyres] claimed victory when President Obama signed a bill outlawing microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics by mid-2017. Targeting those products was easy ― the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already required companies to disclose such ingredients used on skin or teeth. But the narrowly focused legislation left open a gaping loophole, allowing companies to quietly continue using microbeads in myriad products, including detergents, sandblasting materials and cosmetics that can be left on the skin. Identifying all those firms proved impossible.

. . . “It was a very positive thing that Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act,” Jeroen Dagevos, head of programs at the Amsterdam-based nonprofit Plastic Soup Foundation, told HuffPost by phone. “It’s really helping, but it’s not complete.”

Now, Wilson has teamed up with Greenpeace in the United Kingdom to push for a more comprehensive ban.

“At Greenpeace our main issue with [Obama’s ban] is that it covers only wash-off products, whereas we would like a ban here to cover any products that contain microplastics that go down the drain,” Greg Norman, press officer for Greenpeace UK, wrote in an email to HuffPost. “So we and our partners are pushing for something more wide-ranging from the U.K. government.”

The next step for the U.S., Wilson said, may be to push for a right-to-know bill that would force other companies manufacturing products with microbeads to disclose their ingredients.

The need for a complete ban seems increasingly urgent. The oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050, according to a January report from the world Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from consultants at McKinsey. Microbeads wreak havoc on coral populations that eat the tiny particles, which then destroy the creatures’ digestive systems.


Obama’s Ban On Plastic Microbeads Failed In One Huge Way

Alexander C. Kaufman,

Senoir Business Editor, the Huffington Post

microbeads2 microbeads-5-5gyres-plastic-microbead-detail-0-0 Photo: 5 Gyres microbeadsmicrobeads-a-sample-of-microbeads-collected-in-eastern-lake-erie-is-shown-on-the-face-of-an-american-penny-carolyn-box-the-associated-press-file-photo Photo: Carolyn Box, Assoc. Press


Found in beauty products, tiny pieces of plastic which can harm marine life will be banned from sale in the UK from the end of 2017, government will announce

Tiny pieces of plastic in personal beauty products, that end up in the oceans and are swallowed by marine life, will be banned from sale in the UK by the end of 2017,

. . . Greenpeace said the new ban was welcome but should be extended to other products too.

“It’s a credit to Theresa May’s government that they’ve listened to concerns from the public, scientists, and MPs and taken a first step towards banning microbeads,” said the group’s oceans campaigner Louise Edge. “But marine life doesn’t distinguish between plastic from a face wash and plastic from a washing detergent, so it makes no sense for this ban to be limited to some products and not others, as is currently proposed.”


UK government to ban microbeads from cosmetics by end of 2017

Adam Vaughan

2 September 2016


MPs call for ban on plastic microbeads

By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst

24 August 2016



Actions in Canada:

The proposed Regulations would prohibit the manufacture, import, sale or offer for sale of toiletries (see footnote 2) that contain plastic microbeads, including non-prescription drugs and natural health products. The types of toiletries covered include products used for exfoliating or cleansing such as bath and body products, skin cleansers and toothpaste. The proposed Regulations would not apply to prescription drugs. For the purposes of the proposed Regulations, plastic microbeads include any plastic particle equal to or less than 5 mm in size, which can vary in chemical composition, size, shape and density.

The prohibition of the manufacture and import of exfoliating or cleansing toiletries that contain plastic microbeads, excluding natural health products or non- prescription drugs, is targeted to come into effect on January 1, 2018, with the prohibition of the sale or offer for sale of these products by July 1, 2018. Prohibitions would come into effect for the manufacture and import of exfoliating or cleansing non-prescription drugs and natural health products, (see footnote 10) such as toothpaste that contains plastic microbeads, on July 1, 2018, with a prohibition on the sale or offer for sale of these products by July 1, 2019.

Footnote 2 For the purposes of these Regulations, toiletries mean any personal hair, skin, teeth or mouth care products for cleansing or hygiene, including exfoliants and any of those products that is also a natural health product as defined in the Natural Health Products Regulations or a non-prescription drug.

Actions in the United States

On December 28, 2015, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 (H.R. 1321) was signed into federal law as an amendment of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The law will place restrictions on the manufacture or introduction, or delivery for introduction, into interstate commerce, of rinse-off cosmetic products containing microbeads.  The restrictions on rinse-off cosmetic products containing microbeads will come into effect on July 1, 2017, for manufacture, and on July 1, 2018, for introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce. For non-prescription drugs, the timelines are July 1, 2018, for manufacture, and July 1, 2019, for introduction, or delivery for introduction, into interstate commerce.

Actions in Europe

On December 9, 2014, the European Union Commission Decision 2014/893/EU established that rinse-off products containing microbeads are no longer allowed to use the European Union Ecolabel. In the subsequent weeks, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Sweden jointly called upon the Environment Council (ENV) in Brussels to institute a full ban on the addition of microbeads to personal care products. . . .

In addition, the Swedish Chemicals Agency, Kemi, proposed a ban on rinse-off cosmetics containing microbeads. Kemi is working in tandem with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency to identify significant sources of microbead emissions into the aquatic environment and to develop regulatory actions to reduce them. A report on its findings is expected in June 2017.

Actions in Australia

In 2015, New South Wales and South Australia agreed to lead work on a jurisdictional phase-out of microbeads. The current proposal gives Australian companies the option of voluntarily removing microbeads from their products by July 2018. The Australian Environment Minister announced that the federal government will take action to institute a formal ban if, by July 1, 2017, it is clear that the voluntary phase-out will not achieve its objectives.


Microbeads in Toiletries Regulations

Canada Gazette 

Vol. 150, No. 45 — November 5, 2016

Seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year

Seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year with dozens of particles becoming embedded in tissues, scientists have warned, in findings described as ‘sobering’ by the Prince of Wales.

Researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium believe that microplastics accumulate in the body over time and could be a long term health risk.

And they say the amount of plastic absorbed will only get worse as pollution in the oceans increases, a finding described by the Prince of Wales as ‘sobering.’  The Prince has previously described micro-particles as ‘grey goo.’

Dr Colin Janssen, who led the research, said the presence of plastic particles in the body was ‘a concern’.

. . . The study is the first comprehensive risk assessment of its kind. Scientists calculated that more than 99 per cent  of the microplastics pass through the human body – but the rest are taken up by body tissues.

Mussels feed by filtering around 20 litres of seawater a day, ingesting microplastics by accident.

Most are excreted, but on average each mussel contains one tiny fragment lodged in its body tissue. As plastic pollution builds up in the ocean that will increase.

If current trends continue, by the end of the century people who regularly eat seafood could be consuming 780,000 pieces of plastic a year, absorbing 4,000 of them from their digestive systems.

A person eats mussels and French fries during the annual Braderie de Lille (Lille Fleamarket) on September 1, 2012 in Lille, northern France. At least two million visitors are expected over the weekend at the Braderie, one of Europe's largest fleamarket, gathering about ten thousands professional salesmen and Lille residents who want to sell or exchange their unwanted good. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GettyImages)  mussel-rock

Microplastics are widely found in mussels, oysters and other shellfish, Left photo credit Phillippe Huguen/AFP/GettyImages

. . . There are more than five trillion pieces of microplastic in the world’s oceans and the equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic waste is being added to the sea every minute.

By 2050 that will increase to four trucks every minute. The plastic in the ocean will take decades or even centuries to break down into small pieces, but many scientists believe it will never completely disappear.

Featured Image: A larval perch that has ingested microplastic particles, Credit: Oona Lonnstedt  


Seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year, study shows 

By Sarah Knapton, science editor, The Telegraph

24 January 2017


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