Ocean Riddled with Microscopic Plastic Particles

Microscopic bits of plastic are ubiquitous in the world’s oceans, everywhere from the depths to the shorelines, reports a new study in the journal Science. It’s impossible to trace the exact source of the particles, but they are thought to be the result of plastic packaging, bags, and pieces of net being battered around and ground up. The study found that small marine animals like lugworms and barnacles ingest the junk, thus introducing it into the food chain; researchers don’t know whether the particles are harmful to wildlife. Most plastics are made of chemicals that do not naturally break down, so once the stuff is out there, “we’re stuck with it,” says oceanographer Simon Boxall. The plastic-particle pollution is “cause for concern but not alarm,” says study author Richard Thompson. Still, he emphasized one clear lesson from the study: “We should try to be more responsible with how we dispose of litter, and where possible, reuse and recycle plastics because they might last hundreds if not thousands of years.”