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Scientists discover an unprecedented increase of plastic in oceans

by Magali Alvarez
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Since 2005, the level of concentration has reached an approximate current level of more than 2 million tons.

The concentration of plastic in the oceans has experienced an “unprecedented increase” since 2005 to reach a current level of approximately more than 2 million tons, according to a study published Wednesday in the academic journal PLoS ONE.

“Starting in 2005, there was a rapid and consistent increase in plastic abundance. Based on our model, we estimate that between 82 and 358 trillion particles (171 billion on average) weighing between 1.1 and 4.9 million tons (2.3 million on average) were floating (in the ocean) in 2019,” the study says.

The researchers, who include scientists from the United States, Sweden, Chile and Australia, analyzed global data on the concentration of plastics on the surface of the seas spanning from 1979 to 2019.

They observed that, from 1990 to 2005, the amounts of plastic varied without detecting a clear trend, something that could be due to “important policies that were implemented during that period,” such as the ban on discharging plastics from ships included in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Marpol).

From 2006 onwards, however, as global production grew, and as macroplastics already floating on the ocean surface began to disintegrate into microplastics, the concentration of these types of compounds increased considerably.

The researchers admit the limitations of collecting data on a global scale, but defend that their findings are in line with trends recorded on beaches, where data are collected independently.

“The parallels strongly suggest that plastic pollution in the world’s oceans over the past 15 years has reached unprecedented levels,” they conclude, and they call on politicians around the world to agree on targeted regulations that are not limited to the corporate level.

They also warn that without urgent and forceful measures to limit the amount of plastic that ends up in the water, the rate at which this material ends up in the oceans could almost triple by 2040.

No longer a safe place

According to the first global study on air pollution, only 0.18 percent of the Earth’s land surface and 0.001 percent of the world’s population live at pollution levels considered safe by the World Health Organization.

The study – the first to measure PM2.5 pollution particles in the world – reveals that, over the past 20 years, Europe and North America have reduced their air pollution levels while Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and the Caribbean have increased them.

For decades, the lack of air pollution monitoring stations has prevented data on local, national and global exposure to PM2.5 (the most harmful microparticles for environmental health).

Now, for the first time, a team of scientists led by Yuming Guo of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, has mapped the evolution of PM2.5 over the past two decades.

TYT Newsroom

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