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Ocean pollution mapped through lost industrial plastic granules

Gepubliceerd op
6 januari 2010

The Japanese scientist Hideshige Takada leads a study into global patterns of oceanic chemical pollution.

He uses a highly remarkable way of samping the water. Takada uses the industrial plastic granules (pellets) that litter our oceans worldwide. These granules act as a sponge that bind all sorts of chemical pollutants like PCB's, remains of DDT etc., from the seawater to their surface. By collecting such plastic pellets from beaches all over the world, patterns of pollution may be detected.

Global pattern of PCB pollution derived from beached industrial plastic pellets (source: International Pellet Watch)
Global pattern of PCB pollution derived from beached industrial plastic pellets (source: International Pellet Watch)

Recently results from a pellet sample from IMARES from the Dutch island of Texel were added to the dataset. Remains from pesticides like DDT and HCH were very low in this Dutch sample, but high levels of toxic PCB's were found (324 ng per gram plastic). These are the legacy of past usage of such chemicals in especially electrical appliances, coolants etc. Their ultimate breakdown will take a lot of time

More samples are needed in the 'International Pellet Watch'. The high level of toxic substances attached to plastics is bad news for the marine organisms that ingest plastics. Northern Fulmars from the North Sea carry an average number of 3 to 4 plastic pellets in their stomach, in addition to a substantial amount of other plastic debris from user products.