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Even Tiny Plastic Pieces Can Carry Pollution Throughout the Oceans
By Jason Heller, November 2, 2007 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Nytimes.com

To marine biologists, “plastics” is a dirty word. Fish and birds can eat or become tangled in fishing gear or other plastic flotsam. But what about microscopic pieces of plastic in the oceans? They come from products used to clean ships or deteriorating larger pieces of plastic. In a study in Environmental Science and Technology, Emma L. Teuten of the University of Plymouth in England and colleagues point out that microscopic plastic is a potential problem, too. The particles can adsorb pollutants. The researchers looked at how plastic particles picked up a pollutant, phenanthrene. They found that plastic adsorbed far more of the chemical than sediments. The particles could be carried by currents and eaten by organisms far from the sources, or they could sink to the bottom. The researchers estimated that even tiny amounts of plastic could significantly increase the concentration of phenanthrene in a common sediment-ingesting worm, the lugworm, and from there accumulate up the food chain.

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