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Silent Killers: The Danger of Plastic Bags to Marine Life
By Laura Beans
"Paper or plastic?" was once the inquiry of bag-boys in supermarkets around the country. But a growing conscience concerning the frivolous abuse of single-use plastic grocery bags has finally taken hold in the U.S. Around the world, from Australia to Ireland, communities have been enacting bag bans for almost a decade.
The first plastic sandwich bags were introduced in 1957. Department stores and supermarket chains started using plastic shopping bags in the late 1970s. The recycling of plastic bags began in 1990, but by 1996 four out of five grocery bags in the U.S. were thin, single-use, polyethylene bags. More than 1 billion single-use plastic bags are given out free of charge everyday. In 2009 the U.S. International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S.
Plastic bags never biodegrade, but they do breakdown. As they do so, any toxic additives they contain—including flame retardants, antimicrobials and plasticizers—will be released into the environment. Many of these chemicals may disrupt the endocrine system—the delicately balanced set of hormones and glands that affect virtually every organ and cell in the bodies of humans and animals.
Plastic bags are especially harmful to marine animals, and are one of the most common garbage items on California’s beaches according to the Los Angeles Times. Most starts out as litter on beaches, streets and sidewalks. Stormwater runoff and overwatering flushes them through storm drains or directly to creeks, streams and rivers that lead to the ocean.
In marine environments, many animals confuse the plastic littering the oceans for food, including sea turtles. One in three leatherback sea turtles have plastic in their stomach, most often a plastic bag, based on a study of over 370 autopsies. Once in these animals bodies the plastic bioaccumulates, and the chemicals can cause excess estrogen to be produced, which has led to discoveries of male fish with female sex organs. For sea turtles, the plastic blocks their digestive tract and the food that is trapped releases gases that render them buoyant, and unable to dive for food.
A group based in Mexico, Global Ban Now, is raising public awareness of the issue with the release of their short video, Silent Killers. The video was created after a member discovered a sea turtle close to death off the coast of La Paz, Mexico. The sick turtle was brought to a facility in La Paz, where it was discovered that she was slowly starving because a single-use plastic bag, which she had eaten, was blocking her digestive tract. The turtle was kept for a couple of weeks, the plastic was removed and she was released back to the sea.
Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Daisy Brickhill
Each morning, men living in fishing communities along Ghana's coastline push off in search of the day's catch. But when the boats come back to shore, it's the women who take over.
By Sam Nickerson
Links between excess sugar in your diet and disease have been well-documented, but new research by Harvard's School of Public Health might make you even more wary of that next soda: it could increase your risk of an early death.
The study, published this week in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, found that drinking one or two sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) each day — like sodas or sports drinks — increases risk of an early death by 14 percent.
Tyson Foods Recalls Nearly 70,000 Pounds of Chicken Strips After Customers Find ‘Fragments of Metal’
Tyson Foods is recalling approximately 69,093 pounds of frozen chicken strips because they may have been contaminated with pieces of metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Thursday.
The affected products were fully-cooked "Buffalo Style" and "Crispy" chicken strips with a "use by" date of Nov. 30, 2019 and an establishment number of "P-7221" on the back of the package.
"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' freezers," the recall notice said. "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."
Environmental exposure to pesticides, both before birth and during the first year of life, has been linked to an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, according to the largest epidemiological study to date on the connection.
The study, published Wednesday in BMJ, found that pregnant women who lived within 2,000 meters (approximately 1.2 miles) of a highly-sprayed agricultural area in California had children who were 10 to 16 percent more likely to develop autism and 30 percent more likely to develop severe autism that impacted their intellectual ability. If the children were exposed to pesticides during their first year of life, the risk they would develop autism went up to 50 percent.
ExxonMobil could be the second company after Monsanto to lose lobbying access to members of European Parliament after it failed to turn up to a hearing Thursday into whether or not the oil giant knowingly spread false information about climate change.
The call to ban the company was submitted by Green Member of European Parliament (MEP) Molly Scott Cato and should be decided in a vote in late April, The Guardian reported.
Bernie Sanders has become the first contender in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field to pledge to offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions released by campaign travel, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.