Mediterranean at Risk of Becoming a ‘Sea of Plastic,’ WWF Warns
The Mediterranean Sea is turning into a dangerous plastic trap, with record levels of pollution from microplastics threatening marine species and human health, according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released Friday.
Coinciding with World Oceans Day, the WWF report "Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean From Plastic Pollution" raises the alarm on the dramatic effects that excessive plastic use, poor waste management and mass tourism are having on one of the most visited regions in the world.
Bringing together the most recent data and scientific evidence on plastic use in Europe and the many ways in which it impacts marine life, the report presents a detailed roadmap of the urgent actions institutions, businesses and citizens need to take to stop plastic waste from reaching the sea.
"The impacts of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean are also being felt across the world and are causing serious harm both to nature and human health. Worsening plastic pollution will threaten the Mediterranean's global reputation for tourism and seafood, undermining the local communities who depend on these sectors for their livelihoods. The plastics problem is also a symptom of the overall decline in the health of the Mediterranean and must serve as a rallying call for real action," said John Tanzer, leader of the WWF International oceans program.
Today, plastic represents 95 percent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and lying on its beaches. Most of this plastic is released into the sea from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, with tourists visiting the region increasing marine litter by 40 percent each summer.
Large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including protected and endangered species, such as sea turtles and monk seals. But it is microplastics—smaller and more insidious fragments—that have reached record levels of concentration of 1.25 million fragments per km2 in the Mediterranean Sea, almost four times higher than in the "plastic island" found in the North Pacific Ocean. By entering the food chain, these fragments threaten an increasing number of animal species as well as people.
"In Europe, we produce an enormous amount of plastic waste, the majority of which is sent to landfills, resulting in millions of tonnes of plastic entering the Mediterranean Sea each year. This contaminating flow, combined with the Mediterranean being semi-enclosed, has seen harmful microplastics reach record concentration levels, threatening both marine species and human health," said Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of WWF's Mediterranean marine initiative.
"We cannot let the Mediterranean drown in plastic. We need to act urgently and across the whole supply chain to save our ocean from the pervasive presence of plastics."
According to the report, delays and gaps in plastic waste management in most Mediterranean countries are among the root causes of plastic pollution. Out of the 27 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year in Europe (Europe here refers to EU-28, Norway and Switzerland), only a third is recycled; half of all plastic waste in Italy, France and Spain ends up in landfills. Recycled plastics currently account for only 6 percent of plastics demand in Europe.
WWF is urging governments, businesses and individuals to adopt a number of actions to reduce plastic pollution in urban, coastal and marine environments in the Mediterranean and globally. These include:
- The adoption of a legally-binding international agreement to eliminate plastic discharge into the oceans, supported by strong national targets to achieve 100 percent plastic waste recycled and reusable by 2030 and national bans for single-use plastic items such as bags.
- A call to businesses to invest in innovation and design toward more effective and sustainable plastic use.
40-Ton Sperm Whales Killed by Plastic Bags in Mediterranean #plasticpollutes https://t.co/KfdCTPTsrg— Plastic Pollutes (@Plastic Pollutes)1527734403.0
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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