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plastic problems
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News stories about "plastic problems," with punchlines: http://apocadocs.com/d.pl?plastic+problems
Related Scary Tags:
plastic gyre  ~ contamination  ~ toxic buildup  ~ bisphenol A  ~ stupid humans  ~ health impacts  ~ toxic water  ~ endocrine disruptor  ~ ecosystem interrelationships  ~ phthalates  ~ climate impacts  



Tue, Sep 1, 2015
from BBC:
Seabirds 'blighted by plastic waste'
About 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic and are likely to retain some in their gut, a new analysis estimates. The study concludes that matters will only get worse until something is done to stem the flow of waste to oceans. Research co-author Erik Van Sebille says oceans are now filled with plastic and it is "virtually certain" that any dead seabird found in 2050 "will have a bit of plastic in its stomach".... To the foraging bird, a discarded plastic cigarette lighter or a shiny bottle top can look like a fish. If ingested, this litter may simply stay in the gut, unable to pass through, putting the animal's health at risk. As more and more plastic waste finds its way into the oceans - about eight million tonnes a year in one recent estimate - so the hazards to wildlife increase. ...


No heartbeat. I'm pretty sure this is a disposable lighter.

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Mar 7, 2015
from Endocrine Society:
BPA harms dental enamel in young animals, mimicking human tooth defect
A tooth enamel abnormality in children, molar incisor hypomineralization (MIH), may result from exposure to the industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), authors of a new study conclude after finding similar damage to the dental enamel of rats that received BPA. The study results will be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting in San Diego. "Human enamel defects may be used as an early marker of exposure to BPA and similar-acting endocrine disruptors," Babajko said.... Recent published data show that MIH affects up to 18 percent of children ages 6 to 9 years. Although the cause is unclear, it appears to have an environmental origin, according to the study authors. ...


Rat teeth in the coal mine!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Dec 1, 2014
from Mother Jones:
That Takeout Coffee Cup May Be Messing With Your Hormones
Most people know that some plastics additives, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may be harmful to their health. But an upcoming study in the journal Environmental Health finds that entire classes of plastics--including the type commonly referred to as styrofoam and a type used in many baby products--may wreak havoc on your hormones regardless of what additives are in them... The new study suggests that sometimes the resins themselves are part of the problem, though additives such as dyes and antioxidants can make it worse. In the case of polystyrene, the resin used in styrofoam and similar products, the authors tested 11 samples and consistently found estrogen seepage after exposure to intense steam or ultraviolet rays. ...


And the androgynous will inherit the earth.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Nov 3, 2014
from DesdemonaDespair:
Graph of the Day: Distribution of plastic pollution in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans
When marine ecologist Andres Cozar Cabanas and a team of researchers completed the first ever map of ocean trash, something didn't quite add up. Their work, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did find millions of pieces of plastic debris floating in five large subtropical gyres in the world's oceans. But plastic production has quadrupled since the 1980s, and wind, waves, and sun break all that plastic into tiny bits the size of rice grains. So there should have been a lot more plastic floating on the surface than the scientists found. "Our observations show that large loads of plastic fragments, with sizes from microns to some millimeters, are unaccounted for in the surface loads," says Cozar, who teaches at the University of Cadiz in Spain, by e-mail. "But we don't know what this plastic is doing. The plastic is somewhere--in the ocean life, in the depths, or broken down into fine particles undetectable by nets." ...


'Tis the rime of the Plastic Mariner / who stoppeth one in four / 'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,/ what was all this waste for?'

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Oct 18, 2014
from Wageningen University and Research Centre, via ScienceDaily:
Plastic nanoparticles also harm freshwater organisms
Organisms can be negatively affected by plastic nanoparticles, not just in the seas and oceans but in freshwater bodies too. These particles slow the growth of algae, cause deformities in water fleas and impede communication between small organisms and fish.... In the study into the effects of tiny plastic particles in freshwater, PhD candidate Ellen Besseling and student Bo Wang exposed water fleas to various nanoplastic concentrations. At higher concentrations, algae growth declined. Water fleas were also smaller following exposure to nanoplastics and their offspring malformed in various ways. 'These are the first malformations that have been seen in freshwater organisms and we do not yet know how big the problem really is', says Ellen Besseling. She believes that more research is needed into the sources, concentrations and effects of nanoplastic in water and on other organisms. ...


"Microparticles" ought only to produce "microconcerns." Instead, I'm seeing "macroconcerns." What's up with that?

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Jul 11, 2014
from Phys.org:
Leading scientists express rising concern about 'microplastics' in the ocean
Microplastics - microscopic particles of plastic debris - are of increasing concern because of their widespread presence in the oceans and the potential physical and toxicological risks they pose to organisms.... In an article published today in the journal Science, the two scientists have called for urgent action to "turn off the tap" and divert plastic waste away from the marine environment. Microplastics have now been documented in all five of the ocean's subtropical gyres - and have even been detected in Arctic sea ice - with some of the highest accumulations occurring thousands of miles from land. These plastic bits have been found in organisms ranging in size from small invertebrates to large mammals, and are known to concentrate toxic chemicals already present in seawater. This raises concern about the potential consequences to marine organisms.... ...


I know -- let's make the ocean acidic, so we can dissolve the microplastics!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, May 27, 2014
from Alaska Dispatch:
Arctic sea ice littered with tiny bits of 'microplastic' pollution
Dartmouth scientist Rachel Obbard was looking at samples of Arctic sea ice for small organisms when something else caught her eye: Tiny, bright-colored bits and pieces and miniature string-like objects that did not seem to belong. Those small specks turned out to be a type of pollution known as microplastics. Their presence in sea ice collected from the central Arctic Ocean showed that some of the vast quantities of garbage and pollution floating in the world's seas has traveled to the northernmost waters.... sea ice holding the small bits of trash is thinning and likely to shed them back into the water, where they can be ingested by fish, birds and mammals... ...


At least it sounds kinda pretty.

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Mar 22, 2014
from CNN:
Plane search hampered by ocean garbage problem
Another debris field, another new and so-far futile focus in the search for Flight MH370. Two weeks after the Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared, one thing has been made clear: the ocean is full of garbage, literally. "It isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack," Conservation International senior scientist M. Sanjayan said of the difficulty in finding the Boeing 777 aircraft. "It's like looking for a needle in a needle factory. It is one piece of debris among billions floating in the ocean." ...


And the damage done...

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Dec 27, 2013
from Los Angeles Times:
An ecosystem of our own making could pose a threat
The plastisphere, a marine ecosystem that starts with bacteria on particles of discarded plastic, is drawing increasing attention. Scientists fear it might host pathogens and leach dangerous chemicals... The plastisphere was six decades in the making. It's a product of the discarded plastic -- flip-flops, margarine tubs, toys, toothbrushes -- that gets swept from urban sewer systems and river channels into the sea. When that debris washes into the ocean, it breaks down into bits that are colonized by microscopic organisms, many of them new to science. Researchers suspect that some of the denizens may be pathogens hitching long-distance rides on floating junk. Scientists also fear that creatures in the plastisphere break down chunks of polyethylene and polypropylene so completely that dangerous chemicals are leached into the environment. ...


I am a plastispherephobe!

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Dec 4, 2013
from London Guardian:
Mounting microplastic pollution harms 'earthworms of the sea' -- report
Tiny bits of plastic rubbish ingested by marine worms is significantly harming their health and will have wider impact on ocean ecosystems, scientists have found. Microplastic particles, measuring less than 5mm in size, have been accumulating in the oceans since the 1960s and are now the most abundant form of solid-waste pollution on Earth... Using the lugworm as an indicator species, the first study, from the University of Exeter, found that worms feeding in highly contaminated ocean sediment ate less and had lower energy levels. The second study, from Plymouth University, has established for the first time that ingesting microplastics can transfer pollutants and additives to worms, reducing health and biodiversity. ...


Ingesting plastic makes me invincible!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Oct 22, 2013
from http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broken/:
The ocean is broken
What was missing was the cries of the seabirds which, on all previous similar voyages, had surrounded the boat. The birds were missing because the fish were missing. Exactly 10 years before, when Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen had sailed exactly the same course from Melbourne to Osaka, all he'd had to do to catch a fish from the ocean between Brisbane and Japan was throw out a baited line. "There was not one of the 28 days on that portion of the trip when we didn't catch a good-sized fish to cook up and eat with some rice," Macfadyen recalled. But this time, on that whole long leg of sea journey, the total catch was two. No fish. No birds. Hardly a sign of life at all.... "I've done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I'm used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen." ...


Water, water, every where,/ Nor any drop to drink;/ Empty water, fishless scare,/ And never stop to think.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Sep 17, 2013
from Chemical and Engineering News:
Microplastic Beads Pollute Great Lakes
An array of skin care cleansers on the market promise to exfoliate and unclog pores. Some of these skin-scrubbing products contain tiny beads of plastic scattered through a gel or creamy paste. After washing with these cleansers, consumers rinse the soapy stuff -- along with its teeny spheres -- down the drain, giving nary a thought to what happens to the plastic bits, which are less than 1 mm in diameter. Now, researchers are finding plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes. They say the miniscule spheres could harm aquatic animals that mistake them for food. Perhaps more ominously, they worry that the plastic balls could help transfer toxic pollutants from the Great Lakes to the food chain, including fish that people eat. ...


It's worth it if my skin is squeaky clean!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Apr 9, 2013
from Great Lakes Echo:
Toxic chemicals turn up in Great Lakes plastic pollution
Toxic chemicals clinging to plastics could cause health problems for fish and other organisms in the Great Lakes. They were discovered in samples from the first-ever Great Lakes plastic survey in Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Superior last summer, Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin -- Superior, announced Monday. And instead of just sitting in sediments as some scientists previously thought, those pollutants might be traveling with plastics to other parts of the Great Lakes. ...


Buncha hitchhikers.

ApocaDoc
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Want more context?
Try reading our book FREE online:
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Fri, Jan 25, 2013
from RT.com:
Fukushima debris hits Hawaii
Debris set adrift by the 2011 Japanese tsunami has made its way to Hawaii, triggering concerns over the unknown effects of the radiation it may carry from the meltdown of the Fukushima reactor. Debris has washed ashore the islands of Oahu and Kauai and the state's Department of Health has been asked to test some of the incoming material for radiation levels. Refrigerator parts, oyster buoys, housing insulation, storage bins, soda bottles, toys, fishing nets, plastic trash cans and even Japanese net boats have all washed up on Hawaiian sands in the past few weeks, triggering serious environmental concerns over both water pollution and radiation exposure.... Aside from the unknown radiation risks, some of the debris is bringing invasive species to Hawaii, thereby threatening the island chain's ecosystem and introducing the possibility of consuming contaminated seafood. The 24-foot boat found by the fisherman was covered in blue mussels, which are native to Japan and harmful to Hawaii's marine life - especially the corals. ...


It's cool when you can dumpster-dive right into the ocean! In Hawai'i!!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Aug 6, 2012
from Wall Street Journal:
Hong Kong Cleans Up Massive Plastic Spill
A snowy winter scene isn't exactly standard summer fare, but that's the sight that greeted beach-goers in Hong Kong over the weekend. Millions of tiny white plastic pellets have been washing up on the city's shores for the past two weeks, since the city was struck by the worst typhoon in over a decade last month. The storm knocked six containers containing 150 tons of plastic pellets off a ship just south of Hong Kong, sending a tide of white confetti pouring into the waters, which swiftly began washing up on Hong Kong's shores.... Typically measuring just a few millimeters in diameter, the white plastic pellets--also known as "nurdles"--are used as the raw material to produce other plastic products. Experts say that while the pellets aren't toxic themselves, they absorb chemicals and other pollutants from the environment, and could threaten fish or other marine life that consume them. ...


Nurdles sound like such a delicious snack food!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, May 22, 2012
from CNN:
Research ship finds the world's oceans are 'plasticized'
A marine expedition of environmentalists has confirmed the bad news it feared -- the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" extends even further than previously known. Organized by two non-profit groups -- the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the 5 Gyres Institute -- the expedition is sailing from the Marshall Islands to Japan through a "synthetic soup" of plastic in the North Pacific Ocean on a 72-feet yacht called the Sea Dragon, provided by Pangaea Exploration. ...


Planet Garbage Patch!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, May 11, 2012
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Great Pacific Garbage Patch 'has increased 100-fold since the 1970s'
US scientists warned the killer soup of microplastic - particles smaller than five millimetres - threatened to alter the open ocean's natural environment. In the period 1972 to 1987, no microplastic was found in the majority of samples taken for testing, said the paper in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Today, scientists estimate the swirling mass of waste known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is roughly the size of Texas. "The abundance of small human-produced plastic particles in the NPSG has increased by 100 times over the last four decades," said a statement on the findings of researchers from the University of California. The United Nations Environment Programme says around 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are found in every square kilometre of sea, but the problem is worst in the North Pacific. ...


I heard on FOX that the plastic is just natural variation, and will be solved by clouds.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, May 4, 2012
from The Sunbreak, via DesdemonaDespair:
'A Staggering Mess' as Tsunami Debris Hits Alaska Coast Early
In my opinion, this is the single greatest environmental pollution event that has ever hit the west coast of North America. The slow-motion aspects of it have fooled an unwitting public. It far exceeds the Santa Barbara or Exxon Valdez oil spills in gross tonnage and also geographic scope.... NOAA's latest estimate is that 1.5 million tons of largely plastic debris will hit the western United States coast. That is 30 billion pounds. We expect Alaska to get the largest percentage of that with much of it lodging on northern Gulf of Alaska beaches. Most of this will be plastic which is full of inherent toxic chemicals that will leach into the environment for generations. Possibly worse are the millions of containers full of anything from household chemicals to toxic industrial chemicals that are floating our way. They will eventually burst upon our shores... in sensitive inter-tidal spawning and rearing habitat, endangering shorebirds, marine mammals, fish and everything in between. ...


I hope we've learned the lesson to throw everything away before the tsunami hits.

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Apr 26, 2012
from ScienceDaily:
Wind Pushes Plastics Deeper Into Oceans, Driving Trash Estimates Up
After taking samples of water at a depth of 16 feet (5 meters), Proskurowski, a researcher at the University of Washington, discovered that wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface. That meant that decades of research into how much plastic litters the ocean, conducted by skimming only the surface, may in some cases vastly underestimate the true amount of plastic debris in the oceans, Proskurowski said.... [D]ata collected from just the surface of the water commonly underestimates the total amount of plastic in the water by an average factor of 2.5. In high winds the volume of plastic could be underestimated by a factor of 27.... Proskurowski gathered data on a 2010 North Atlantic expedition where he and his team collected samples at the surface, plus an additional three or four depths down as far as 100 feet. "Almost every tow we did contained plastic regardless of the depth," he said. ...


That plastic could be the result of natural variation, couldn't it? Hunh?

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Feb 10, 2012
from Mongabay:
Fungus from the Amazon devours plastic
Students from Yale University have made the amazing discovery of a species of fungus that devours one of the world's most durable, and therefore environmentally troublesome, plastics: polyurethane, reports Fast Company's Co-Exist. The new species of fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is even able to consume polyurethane in zero-oxygen (anaerobic) conditions, which would be important in eating plastics in the deep dark layers of landfills where little sunlight, water, or oxygen is found. ...


Polymarvelous!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Feb 7, 2012
from Environmental Health News:
Childhood obesity linked to phthalate exposure.
Overweight children tend to have higher levels of certain phthalate metabolites in their urine, according to a year-long study of minority populations in New York City. The trend was not seen in normal weight children. The researchers found the relationship only with one kind of phthalate known as MEP. More specifically, they report that a 10-fold increase in MEP concentrations was associated with subsequent increases in body mass index (BMI) and waist size. This is the first study to examine the association between phthalate exposure and body weight measures in children. Prior studies in teens and women find a similar association between the same phthalate -- MEP -- and the same two body measures. ...


Phatthalates!

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Feb 2, 2012
from Reuters:
University of Vermont joins move to end bottled water sales
The University of Vermont is banning the sale of bottled water on campus, part of a growing effort at schools to reduce plastic waste and save students' money by promoting tap water. A dozen U.S. universities have ended sales of bottled water in the past three years, but UVM is the largest to do so. Other schools include the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, University of Portland and Washington University in St. Louis. ...


The awesome power of the tap water lobby is something to behold.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Jan 30, 2012
from Earth Magazine:
Tracking plastic in the oceans
Despite worldwide efforts to curtail plastic use -- to ban plastic grocery bags, to switch to reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic bottles, and to get rid of the microplastics in cosmetics, for example -- we still produce more than 260 million tons of plastic each year. Almost a third of that plastic goes into disposable, one-time-use items. Only about 1 percent of it is recycled globally, so much ends up in landfills. Worse still, some of the plastic winds up in the world's oceans. No one knows exactly how much plastic is in the ocean. Studies over the past few decades have suggested that millions of square kilometers of ocean surface may be covered with floating garbage "patches." And there are at least five known patches: three in the Pacific, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that floats near Hawaii, a patch near Baja California, and one near Chile; and two in the Atlantic, including one in the North Atlantic near Bermuda and one between South America and South Africa. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is perhaps the best known, estimated by some researchers to be roughly the size of Texas. ...


I'm just glad there's an "away" to throw it all!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Jan 9, 2012
from ChemicalWatch:
Researchers find school packed lunches contaminated with phthalates
Scientists have found that food packaging appears to increase the levels of two phthalates in lunches fed to children by up to 50 percent, following a study in Italy. Researchers from the University of Naples measured the levels of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) and di-n-butylphthalate (DBP) in packed school meals prepared for children aged between 3 and 10 years old, and estimated the influence of the packaging process on meal contamination and the contribution to daily intake. They found that 92 percent of foodstuffs employed in meal preparation contained DEHP, and 76 percent of them DBP, at detectable levels. By comparing food contents before and after packaging, the researchers found that the packaging process contributed to a significant increase in the level of the two chemicals, estimating that for young children school meals can increase daily DEHP intake by up to 18 percent and DBP by up to 50 percent. ...


Phthat's phthreatening!

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Nov 10, 2011
from BBC:
Nigeria's plastic bottle house
Hundreds of people - including government officials and traditional leaders - have been coming to see how the walls are built in the round architectural shape popular in northern Nigeria. The bottles, packed with sand, are placed on their side, one on top of the other and bound together with mud... Yahaya Ahmed of Nigeria's Development Association for Renewable Energies, estimates that a bottle house will cost one third of what a similar house made of concrete and bricks would cost. It is also more durable. "Compacted sand inside a bottle is nearly 20 times stronger than bricks," he says. "We are even intending to build a three-storey building." ...


I'll drink to that!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Sep 5, 2011
from Environmental Health News:
Common plasticizer alters an important memory system in male rat brains.
An ingredient widely-used to soften plastic containers and toys changed brain development in growing male rats when exposure occurs during a sensitive phase. The same exposure did not affect female rats, report researchers in the journal Neuroscience. The animal study shows that the phthalate DEHP can disrupt the normal development of the hippocampus in young male rats by reducing the number of cells and nerve connections that form. The hippocampus is important to learning as it is involved in the formation of long-term memories. The rat hippocampus matures in the first few weeks after birth while in people, the hippocampus largely develops before birth during the third trimester. This is the first research to connect phthalate exposure at a critical time of development with these cell and nerve effects in the hippocampus. ...


this explains plenty/
regarding disputes between/
me and my sweetheart

ApocaDoc
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You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Tue, Aug 2, 2011
from ScienceDaily:
The Last Great Wilderness: Human Impact On the Deep Sea
The oceans cover 71 percent of our planet, with over half with a depth greater than 3000 m. Although our knowledge is still very limited, we know that the deep ocean contains a diversity of habitats and ecosystems, supports high biodiversity, and harbors important biological and mineral resources. Human activities are, however increasingly affecting deep-sea habitats, resulting in the potential for biodiversity loss and, with this, the loss of many goods and services provided by deep-sea ecosystems.... The impacts were grouped in three major categories: waste and litter dumping, resource exploitation, and climate change. The authors identified which deep-sea habitats are at highest risk in the short and mid-term, as well as what will be the main anthropogenic impacts affecting these areas, in a paper published in PLoS ONE on Aug. 1, 2011.... In particular, the accumulation of plastics on the deep seafloor, which degrade into microplastics, called mermaid tears, that can be ingested by the fauna, has consequences still unknown but predicted to be important. Moreover, there is increasing evidence of the accumulation of chemical pollutants of industrial origin, such as mercury, lead and persistent organic pollutants (e.g. dioxins, PCBs) in the sediment and fauna, including in species of commercial interest.... The main problem is that we still know very little of what we call the deep sea, making it difficult to evaluate accurately the real impact of industrial activities, litter accumulation and climate change in the deep sea habitats. ...


On the surface, everything looks just fine.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jul 26, 2011
from Rolling Stone:
The Plastic Bag Wars
American shoppers use an estimated 102 billion plastic shopping bags each year -- more than 500 per consumer. Named by Guinness World Records as "the most ubiquitous consumer item in the world," the ultrathin bags have become a leading source of pollution worldwide. They litter the world's beaches, clog city sewers, contribute to floods in developing countries and fuel a massive flow of plastic waste that is killing wildlife from sea turtles to camels... "There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere," the United Nations Environment Programme recently declared. But in the United States, the plastics industry has launched a concerted campaign to derail and defeat anti-bag measures nationwide. The effort includes well-placed political donations, intensive lobbying at both the state and national levels, and a pervasive PR campaign designed to shift the focus away from plastic bags to the supposed threat of canvas and paper bags -- including misleading claims that reusable bags "could" contain bacteria and unsafe levels of lead. ...


Beware the eeevil canvas and paper bags!

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Fri, Jul 15, 2011
from Daily Mail:
Victim of the great garbage patch: Turtle is just one of thousands left deformed or dead by Pacific Ocean plastic
Its shell constricted by a plastic band, this turtle is just one victim of the great garbage patch. But while the reptile may be deformed, it is more fortunate than many of the animals that come into contact with the huge sea of waste in the northern Pacific Ocean. Greenpeace workers have found countless dead seabirds, their stomachs laced with plastic items such as bottle tops, lighters and balloons.... Earlier this year, another operation in Hawaii discovered a dead turtle who had more than 1,000 items of plastic in his stomach. ...


It's zombie plastic! The undead return!

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Sun, Jul 10, 2011
from Agence France-Press:
Is ocean garbage killing whales?
Millions of tonnes of plastic debris dumped each year in the world's oceans could pose a lethal threat to whales, according to a scientific assessment to be presented at a key international whaling forum this week. A review of research literature from the last two decades reveals hundreds of cases in which cetaceans -- an order including 80-odd species of whales, dolphins and porpoises -- have been sickened or killed by marine litter. Entanglement in plastic bags and fishing gear have long been identified as a threat to sea birds, turtles and smaller cetaceans. For large ocean-dwelling mammals, however, ingestion of such refuse is also emerging as a serious cause of disability and death, experts say. ...


We just need to invent an edible plastic!

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Wed, Jun 15, 2011
from Associated Press:
Government lists formaldehyde as cancer causer
The strong-smelling chemical formaldehyde causes cancer, while styrene, a second industrial chemical that's used worldwide in the manufacture of fiberglass and food containers, may cause cancer, the National Institutes of Health says. The NIH said Friday that people with higher measures of exposure to formaldehyde are at increased risk for certain types of rare cancers, including those affecting the upper part of the throat behind the nose. The chemical is widely used to make resins for household items, including paper product coatings, plastics and textile finishes. It also is commonly used as a preservative in medical laboratories, mortuaries and consumer products including some hair straightening products. ...


Why on earth would people want to straighten their hair?

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Mon, May 23, 2011
from New York Times:
How to Rid the Seas of 'Plastic Soup'?
The problem is not just one of unsightliness, or of sea life getting caught up in plastic grocery bags or choking on plastic bottle tops or cigarette lighters. There are also the tiny fragments formed by disintegrating items. Plastic does not fully biodegrade like wood or cardboard, noted Peter Kershaw of the British marine science center Cefas, who advises the United Nations on marine environmental protection issues. For plastic to biodegrade, you need conditions that are really only found in industrial composters and landfills, including high temperatures. ''You don't have those conditions in the middle of the sea,'' he said. Instead, the plastic trash eventually breaks up into billions of fragments that hover below the surface in vast, soupy patches in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Easily swallowed by marine life and prone to absorbing contaminants in the water, this gunk is now a key focus of scientific concern, with some researchers worrying that the stuff could end up in the food chain. ''It is everywhere and in every water sample that we have collected since 1999,'' said Marieta Francis, executive director of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in California. ...


Can't we just throw the plastic soup away?

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Sat, May 14, 2011
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Deadly diet of marine plastic kills seabirds
Seabirds which forage in the Tasman Sea are mistaking plastic for food, eating it and perishing on Lord Howe Island. "The problem is here - in our backyard," a zoologist, Jennifer Lavers, said. Large amounts of plastic are being recovered from flesh-footed shearwaters on Lord Howe. In the latest survey, one bird's stomach contained more than 200 pieces and others held more than 50. The sharp-edged fragments tear internal organs and toxic substances bind to the plastic. Mercury, which is toxic to birds at four parts per million, was found in the shearwaters at up to 30,000 ppm, according to Dr Lavers. The bird's numbers are plummeting on Lord Howe, once an Australian stronghold. Dr Lavers, of the Tasmanian Museum, said in last month's survey 95 per cent of nesting shearwaters had some plastic in their stomachs and it was hard to find living chicks.... The shearwater population on Lord Howe has at least halved since the 1970s. Even so, in a good year 50 per cent of burrows contained chicks. "This year we checked more than 200 nests and we found six chicks - one of them dead," Dr Lavers said. "We have to ask: 'is this just a bad year, or is this population tanking?'." ...


Our society's challenge: How do we make plastic more nutritious?

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Thu, May 5, 2011
from New York Times:
Asthma Rate Rises Sharply in U.S., Government Says
Americans are suffering from asthma in record numbers, according to a study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly one in 10 children and almost one in 12 Americans of all ages now has asthma, government researchers said. According to the report, from 2001 to 2009 the prevalence of asthma increased among all demographic groups studied... Researchers are investigating several potential causes for the increase in asthma, including exposure to various allergens, traffic exhaust fumes, pesticides and certain plastics, as well as factors like obesity and diet that may play a role... ...


Could be that needing to breathe is the biggest problem of all.

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Sat, Apr 23, 2011
from Nature:
Puzzle persists for 'degradeable' plastics
Eco-friendly plastics disintegrate, but might just linger in the environment. The environmentally friendly version of polythene might not be so friendly after all. Polyethylene is one of the most widely used materials in the world, and the discarded plastic bag has become one of the most potent symbols of human impact on the environment. As worries over the vast scale of waste from this plastic has grown, so has the use of purportedly 'degradable' forms of it... Although it is clear that 'degradable' plastic bags, for example, will fall apart in the environment, the resulting fragments can persist for a long time, and there are no long-term studies on these pieces. A key issue is that products can be described as biodegradable without reference to the timescale it takes them to fully biodegrade. ...


In terms of how long it takes to biodegrade, are we talking Newtonian or relativistic timescapes?

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Wed, Mar 23, 2011
from WHDH Boston:
More sewage treatment disks on MA shores
More of those little white disks from a New Hampshire sewage plant are washing up on shores further down the Massachusetts coast. The latest place they've been found is Revere Beach and there's word that they could end up on Cape Cod.... A new wave of sewage treatment disks are invading Massachusetts beaches further south than before.... Eight million of the mesh disks that filter sewage in Hooksett, New Hampshire overflowed. First the problem was on the Merrimack River and then it moved into Newburyport and Plum Island, and now Nahant, Lynn and Revere are all affected, and officials say there will be more. ...


Cleanup should be a breeze -- once we invent a magnet for plastic.

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Sat, Mar 19, 2011
from The Vancouver Sun:
Ocean garbage: Floating landmines
No matter where you travel on the B.C. coast, no matter how remote or seemingly untrammelled and pristine the fiord or inlet, a piece of plastic, Styrofoam or other garbage has been there before you. God knows how it got there: Dumped recklessly off a vessel, swept down a river or through a storm drain, blown by the wind off the land, or brought in by the ocean currents flowing across the vast North Pacific - including debris from the Japanese tsunami, which could start arriving on our coast in two years. What we do know is that marine garbage is ubiquitous and wreaking havoc at every level of the marine environment. A new B.C. study estimates there are 36,000 pieces of "synthetic marine debris" -garbage the size of fists to fridges -floating around the coastline, from remote inland fiords to 150 kilometres offshore. ...


We are the only species that shits where it sleeps and pisses into the wind.

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Fri, Mar 11, 2011
from Los Angeles Times:
Small fish are ingesting plastic in Pacific garbage gyre
Southern California researchers have found evidence of widespread ingestion of plastic among small fish in the northern Pacific Ocean in a study they say shows the widespread impact of floating litter on the food chain. About 35 percent of the fish collected on a 2008 research expedition off the U.S. West Coast had plastic in their stomachs, according to a study to be presented Friday by the Long Beach-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. The fish, on average, ingested two pieces of plastic, but scientists who dissected hundreds of plankton-eating lantern fish found as many as 83 plastic fragments in a single fish. ...


Ingesting plastic gives me such a satisfying feeling a fullness.

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Sun, Mar 6, 2011
from The Vancouver Sun:
Researchers find more plastic in the guts of Arctic seabirds
When biologist Jennifer Provencher headed to the Arctic, she signed on to help assess how seabird diets are changing as temperatures climb in the North. She never expected to find plastics on the menu. But she and her colleagues at the Canadian Wildlife Service are pulling remarkable amounts of trash from birds in some of the remotest spots on Earth. Fulmars are strong flyers that skim the surface swallowing tasty tidbits, and 84 per cent of the ones the researchers examined from two Arctic colonies had plastics in their guts. One had swallowed the mangled remains of a red bottle lid, with a striking resemblance to a Coke cap, along with 20 other bits of plastic. "It's hard to believe a bird could have that much plastic," said Provencher, who has been combing through the stomach contents for her graduate work at the University of Victoria. "That's the equivalent of a human being having a baseball-sized chunk of plastic in your stomach." ...


If these birds enjoy ingesting plastic, there's an entire planet to feast on.

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Sun, Feb 20, 2011
from The Independent:
Plastic grocery bags 'not eco-villains after all'?
Unpublished Government research suggests the plastic carrier may not be an eco villain after all - but, whisper it, an unsung hero. Hated by environmentalists and shunned by shoppers, the disposable plastic bag is piling up in a shame-filled corner of retail history. But a draft report by the Environment Agency, obtained by the Independent on Sunday, has found that ordinary high density polythene (HDPE) bags used by shops are actually greener than supposedly low impact choices. HDPE bags are, for each use, almost 200 times less damaging to the climate than cotton hold-alls favoured by environmentalists, and have less than one third of the Co2 emissions than paper bags which are given out by retailers such as Primark. The findings suggest that, in order to balance out the tiny impact of each lightweight plastic bag, consumers would have to use the same cotton bag every working day for a year, or use paper bags at least thrice rather than sticking them in the bin or recycling. ...


I thought things were either good, or they were bad. Where does "it's complicated" fit?

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Sun, Jan 30, 2011
from London Independent:
Shoppers' green fatigue hits refill revolution
Green fatigue among shoppers has set back Britain's long-awaited refillable bottle revolution, with the latest attempts to persuade supermarket customers to reuse containers ending in failure. Twelve years after one supermarket chain first began testing ways to encourage shoppers to refill detergent bottles rather than buy new ones, the group is no nearer to launching a national scheme across its stores. Julian Walker-Palin, Asda's head of corporate sustainability, called its latest trial - which ran in five stores across the UK and offered customers the chance to save money while cutting their carbon footprint, by reusing specially designed fabric conditioner pouches - "disappointing". ...


The customer is always right even when they're messing up the planet.

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Thu, Jan 27, 2011
from Earth Institute:
Our Oceans: A Plastic Soup
In any case, plastic marine debris is now found on the surface of every ocean on Earth.... Some plastic and marine debris comes from fishing gear, offshore oil and gas platforms, and ships. But 80 percent of it comes from the land--litter that gets stuck in storm drains and is washed into rivers and out to sea, the legal and illegal dumping of garbage and appliances, and plastic resin pellets inadvertently spilled and unloaded by plastic manufacturers. Trash Travels, Ocean Conservancy's 2010 report, states that 60 percent of all marine debris in 2009 consisted of "disposable" items, with the most common being cigarettes, plastic bags, food containers, bottle caps and plastic bottles. And no matter where the litter originates, once it reaches the ocean, it becomes a planetary problem as garbage travels thousands of miles carried by the gyres.... The majority of the plastic found in the ocean are tiny pieces less than 1 cm. in size, with the mass of 1/10 of a paper clip. ...


I think I liked the story of stone soup a lot more.

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Tue, Jan 4, 2011
from Oregon State University, via EurekAlert:
Oceanic 'garbage patch' not nearly as big as portrayed in media
There is a lot of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, but claims that the "Great Garbage Patch" between California and Japan is twice the size of Texas are grossly exaggerated, according to an analysis by an Oregon State University scientist.... The studies have shown is that if you look at the actual area of the plastic itself, rather than the entire North Pacific subtropical gyre, the hypothetically "cohesive" plastic patch is actually less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas. "The amount of plastic out there isn't trivial," White said. "But using the highest concentrations ever reported by scientists produces a patch that is a small fraction of the state of Texas, not twice the size."... Recent research by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that the amount of plastic, at least in the Atlantic Ocean, hasn't increased since the mid-1980s - despite greater production and consumption of materials made from plastic, she pointed out. "Are we doing a better job of preventing plastics from getting into the ocean?" White said. "Is more plastic sinking out of the surface waters? Or is it being more efficiently broken down? We just don't know. But the data on hand simply do not suggest that 'plastic patches' have increased in size. This is certainly an unexpected conclusion, but it may in part reflect the high spatial and temporal variability of plastic concentrations in the ocean and the limited number of samples that have been collected."... "On one hand, these plastics may help remove toxins from the water," she said. "On the other hand, these same toxin-laden particles may be ingested by fish and seabirds. Plastic clearly does not belong in the ocean."... ...


Maybe for her next study, she can take a look at that pesky melting Arctic.

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Thu, Dec 30, 2010
from Reuters:
Italy To Ban Plastic Shopping Bags
Italy, one of the top users of plastic shopping bags in Europe, is banning them starting January 1, with retailers warning of chaos and many stores braced for the switch. Italian critics say polyethylene bags use too much oil to produce, take too long to break down, clog drains and easily spread to become eye sores and environmental hazards. Italians use about 20 billion bags a year -- more than 330 per person -- or about one-fifth of the total used in Europe, according to Italian environmentalist lobby Legambiente. Starting on Saturday, retailers are banned from providing shoppers polyethylene bags. They can use bags made of such material as biodegradable plastic, cloth or paper. ...


We need more of this amore for the earth.

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Fri, Nov 5, 2010
from BBC:
Plastic debris 'killing Adriatic loggerhead turtles'
One in three loggerhead turtles in the Adriatic Sea has plastic in its intestine, according to researchers studying the impact of debris on marine life. The shallow waters of the Adriatic are important feeding grounds for the turtles as they develop into adults. But the sea-floor is one of the most polluted in Europe. The team studied the bodies of dead sea turtles that had been stranded or accidentally caught by fishing vessels. The impacts of debris on marine creatures are not entirely clear. But scientists have found that animals ranging from invertebrates to large mammals consume plastic waste and are concerned that it could damage their health.... The researchers hope that, now they have shown that the turtles are particularly vulnerable to plastic debris, more will be done to reduce it. "Loggerheads are opportunistic feeders which will eat almost anything that is in front of them and plastic stays around for a very long time in the sea," says Dr Gracan. "In the future we must think more carefully what we put in the sea." ...


Now what can be done to make plastic more nutritious?

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Tue, Oct 5, 2010
from Huffington Post:
Biodegradable Packaging Criticized For Being Too Noisy, so Frito-Lay Returns to Plastic
Frito-Lay hopes to quiet complaints about its noisy SunChips bags by switching out the biodegradable bags for the old packaging on most flavors. The company is switching back to original packaging, which is made of a type of plastic, for five of the six varieties of the chips. It will keep the biodegradable and recyclable bags for its sixth variety, its original plain flavor.... Spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said the company received complaints about the noise from the bags, although it also received thanks from customers who liked being able to recycle them. So the decision was made to remove the bulk of the biodegradable line. "We need to listen to our consumers," she said. "We clearly heard their feedback." ...


Can I slap those stupid customers for being too noisy?

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Sun, Aug 15, 2010
from InvestigateWest:
States struggle to curb pollution by cruise ships
In a single day, the federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates, passengers aboard a typical cruise ship will generate: * 21,000 gallons of sewage * One ton of garbage * 170,000 gallons of wastewater from sinks, showers and laundry * More than 25 pounds of batteries, fluorescent lights, medical wastes and expired chemicals * Up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water from engines * Four plastic bottles per passenger - about 8,500 bottles per day for the Carnival Spirit Cruise ships incinerate between 75 and 85 percent of their garbage, according to the EPA in its 2008 study, contributing to smog in coastal communities and on the ocean. They also release incinerator ash and sewage sludge into the ocean. They contribute nutrients, metals, ammonia, pharmaceutical waste, chemical cleaners and detergent to deep marine environments from sewage treatment systems that either don't work as planned or aren't able to remove such substances, according to tests in Washington and Alaska, interviews with state officials, the EPA study, and information provided by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. It's legal to discharge untreated sewage in most areas of the United States farther than three miles from shore. ...


You cruise... you lose.

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Fri, Aug 13, 2010
from Scientific American:
Plastic Surf: The Unhealthful Afterlife of Toys and Packaging
By now even schoolchildren know that the plastics we discard every year in the millions of tons persist in the environment for hundreds of years. And we have all heard of the horrors caused by such debris in the sea: fur seals entangled by nylon nets, sea otters choking on polyethylene six-pack rings, and plastic bags or toys stuck in the guts of sea turtles....Scientists fear the possible effects of this plastic confetti on zooplankton and other creatures at the base of the marine food web, which get consumed by larger organisms--turtles, fish, birds--and, ultimately, by us. ...


So if schoolkids know this, then why do they keep asking Santa for this crap!?

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Sun, Aug 8, 2010
from Daily Mail:
Billions of pieces of rubbish clogging Three Gorges
... But China's Three Gorges superstructure is now under threat from vast floating islands of rubbish and debris which have been swept into the Yangtze River by torrential rain and flooding. The debris has clogged a large swathe of the river and the locks of the hydroelectric dam - which cost $25billion to build and claimed more than 100 lives - are now at risk. The crust of rubbish is jammed so thick in places that people can stand on it. The Three Gorges rubbish jam is not an isolated occurrence. Another island covering 15,000 square metres - more than 150,000 square feet - had lodged under a bridge in the north-eastern city of Baishan in Jilin province and was blocking water flow. Officials in Baishan are racing against time to clear the debris as they fear a fresh wave of flooding could bring down the bridge. If the island is washed downstream, it could block floodgates at the Yunfeng dam, now operating at full capacity.... 'We have collected 40 trucks of the trash, but the remaining trash might fill another 200 trucks,' police officer Wang Yong said. More rain is forecast in the coming days. ...


Thank goodness this is an isolated occurrence!

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Thu, Jul 29, 2010
from ACS, via EurekAlert:
The fungus among us: A new way of decomposing BPA-containing plastic
Just as cooking helps people digest food, pretreating polycarbonate plastic -- source of a huge environmental headache because of its bisphenol A (BPA) content -- may be the key to disposing of the waste in an eco-friendly way, scientists have found. Their new study is in ACS' Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal. Mukesh Doble and Trishul Artham note that manufacturers produce about 2.7 million tons of plastic containing BPA each year. Polycarbonate is an extremely recalcitrant plastic, used in everything from screwdriver handles to eyeglass lenses, DVDs, and CDs. Some studies have suggested that the BPA may have a range of adverse health effects, sparking the search for an environmentally safe way of disposing of waste plastic to avoid release of BPA. The scientists pretreated polycarbonate with ultraviolet light and heat and exposed it to three kinds of fungi -- including the fabled white-rot fungus, used commercially for environmental remediation of the toughest pollutants. The scientists found that fungi grew better on pretreated plastic, using its BPA and other ingredients as a source of energy and breaking down the plastic. After 12 months, there was almost no decomposition of the untreated plastic, compared to substantial decomposition of the pretreated plastic, with no release of BPA. ...


That fabled fungus needs an agent, and a brand change. WhiteFix? GreenWhite?

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Sun, Jul 4, 2010
from Sydney Daily Telegraph:
The poison fed to our babies
The chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA), is found in plastic packaging. Latest research in the US says it may harm brain development and the prostate gland. Australian stores last week began a voluntary phase-out of plastic baby bottles containing the substance, but Food Standards Australia New Zealand has long declared it safe. A draft report to Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler includes comments indicating that the agency considered covering up international concerns. "Maybe too sensitive for the Minister to see," one comment says. Another comment, on industry moves to phase out products containing BPA, warns: "Would delete this - we do not want to be encouraging withdrawal of something we deem safe." ...


We call these sorts of spineless bureaucrats bisphenol Assholes.

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Mon, Jun 28, 2010
from AP:
Report: Toxins found in whales bode ill for humans
Sperm whales feeding even in the most remote reaches of Earth's oceans have built up stunningly high levels of toxic and heavy metals, according to American scientists who say the findings spell danger not only for marine life but for the millions of humans who depend on seafood. A report released Thursday noted high levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury and titanium in tissue samples taken by dart gun from nearly 1,000 whales over five years. From polar areas to equatorial waters, the whales ingested pollutants that may have been produced by humans thousands of miles away, the researchers said.... The researchers found mercury as high as 16 parts per million in the whales. Fish high in mercury such as shark and swordfish -- the types health experts warn children and pregnant women to avoid -- typically have levels of about 1 part per million.... "The entire ocean life is just loaded with a series of contaminants, most of which have been released by human beings," Payne said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting. ...


Who would have expected toxin bioaccumulation to become an evolutionary force?

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Fri, Jun 25, 2010
from Discovery:
Scientists Find Hints at Coming Antarctic Garbage Patch
You've heard about the Pacific garbage patch and the Atlantic garbage patch, each a sobering sign of how when we throw things away, they don't go "away" -- they often go into the sea, where they remain for a long, long time. Much of the global ocean remains uncharted in terms of pollution, but unfortunately the more we look, the more we find. And now even the most remote, pristine waters on the planet -- the coastal seas of Antarctica -- are being invaded by plastic debris. In a series of surveys conducted during the austral summer of 2007-2008, researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and Greenpeace trawled the region, skimming surface waters and digging into the seabed. Even in the exceedingly remote Davis and Durmont D'Urville seas they found errant fishing buoys and a plastic cup. Plastic packaging was found floating in the Amundsen Sea. It doesn't sound like much, but finding trash in the far corners of the planet is a worrying sign. The research team, led by David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey, believe the debris they found represents the leading edge of a tide of man-made refuse that is just now starting to make its way into the most secluded parts of our oceans.... "The seabeds immediately surrounding continental Antarctica are probably the last environments on the planet yet to be reached by plastics, but with pieces floating into the surface of the Amundsen Sea this seems likely to change soon. Our knowledge now touches every sea but so does our legacy of lost and discarded plastic." ...


It's just our little attempt to keep the planet fresh -- with SaranWrap!

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Tue, Jun 15, 2010
from Seattle PI, via DesdemonaDespair:
'Surprisingly large amount of microplastics in the environment'
While scientists have documented the effects of large plastic flotsam in the oceans for decades - turtles trapped in fishing nets, albatrosses swallowing plastic cigarette lighters - very little research has focused on what happens when those bigger pieces break down into tiny specks, called microplastics.... Baker said microscopic fragments are floating in the ocean and washing up on shores, but the exact consequences for marine organisms are still unknown. His project is developing methods to measure how much microplastics are in seawater and sediments, as a first step to answering those questions. They're sampling the waters of Puget Sound and using citizen scientists to help collect plastics that wash up on beaches.... "What's the impact? Frankly, we have no idea," said Baker, science director of the new Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma. "The one thing we know for sure is that it doesn't break down." ...


If they don't break down, Mr. SmartyPants, then how did they become microplastics?

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Tue, Jun 8, 2010
from TreeHugger:
The Pacific Trash Vortex Explained (Video)
What exactly is the Pacific Trash Vortex? Well, it's a huge floating mass of trash twice the size of Texas that has the dubious honor of being the largest landfill on the planet. 90 percent of this trash is plastic, 80 percent which originates on land with the other 20 percent coming from seafaring vessels and, eh hem, oil platforms.... Who's responsible for this mess? Humans, especially those in the developed world who are consuming, discarding and replacing mostly Chinese-made plastic crap at an ever-accelerating rate. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population but consumes 30 percent of the world's resources and creates 30 percent of the world's waste.... No-one knows exactly when Great Pacific Garbage Patch began to form but we do know plastic has been around for the past 144 years and except for the small amount that's been incinerated every bit of plastic ever made still exists. Given we're churning out about 60 billion tons of it, much of it disposable, it's no wonder monsters the like the Great Pacific Vortex have been created. ...


Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!

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Wed, Jun 2, 2010
from San Francisco Chronicle:
State plastic bag ban gaining support
California would be the first state to ban plastic and most paper bags from grocery, convenience and other stores under a proposal that appears headed for a major legislative victory this week. Shoppers who don't bring their own totes to a store would have to purchase paper bags made of at least 40 percent recycled material for a minimum of 5 cents or buy reusable bags under the proposal, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2012. A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he supports the bill, which will be voted on in the Assembly this week and could go to a Senate vote this year. ...


First ban plastic bags, then oil!

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Sat, May 29, 2010
from Chemical and Engineering News:
Turning Plastic Trash Into Treasure?
Plastic grocery bags are handy and durable, but after the bread and milk are put away, most of the bags wind up in landfills. Now Vilas Pol, a materials scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, has found a way to "upcycle" discarded plastics into carbon microspheres... For the new method, he places waste plastics, such as polyethylene bags and disposable polystyrene cups, into a closed, heatable reactor. Using mass spectrometry, Pol found that at 700 [degrees] C, the chemical bonds between the carbons and hydrogens break down. The products are solid carbon, as well as hydrogen and hydrocarbon gases. Pol says that the upcycling process could provide an environmentally friendly alternative to typical methods that produce solid carbon. He generates the same product but starts with discarded plastics instead of fossil fuels. ...


Pol has soooo been smokin' pot!

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Sat, May 29, 2010
from CBC News:
Disposable diapers: Are they dangerous?
...diaper manufacturers are not obligated by law to disclose the component parts of their diapers -- via documents such as material safety data sheets -- even though in many cases they share the same ingredients as cosmetics and personal-care products, which do list their ingredients... In the study conducted on mice, scientists found that "diaper emissions were found to include several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity," according to lead author Rosalind Anderson, a physiologist. She found that the mice suffered asthma-like symptoms when exposed to a variety of diaper brands. It was noted that xylene and ethyl benzene were emitted by the diapers, chemicals that are suspected endocrine, neurological and respiratory toxins; along with styrene, a chemical linked to cancer and isopropylene, a neurotoxin. Diapers contain a variety of plastics, adhesives, glues, elastics and lubricants, some of which can cause irritation. ...


Whatcha gonna do? Let 'em poop and pee on the floor?!?

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Sat, May 1, 2010
from The Boston Globe:
Concord fires first shot in water battle
CONCORD -- For years, Jean Hill has been reading about the environmental consequences of the countless plastic bottles filling landfills and polluting local waters. She has watched as other towns around the country have cut purchases of bottled water, which she views as a wasteful, environmentally damaging alternative to tap water. This week, after lobbying neighbors and local officials for months, the 82-year-old activist persuaded them to take more drastic action than perhaps any other municipality in the country: At Town Meeting on Thursday, Concord residents voted to ban all sales of bottled water....And the $10 billion bottled-water industry quickly reacted. "We obviously don't think highly of the vote in Concord,'' said Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, a trade association that represents bottlers, suppliers, and distributors. ...


She better be careful, lest the head of a reverse osmosis filtration system be found in her bed.

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Tue, Apr 20, 2010
from KIRO TV (Seattle):
Researchers Say Dead Gray Whale Filled With Garbage
Researchers said a dead gray whale discovered on West Seattle's Arroyo Beach last Wednesday was filled with a variety of debris, reported KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. Cascadia Research Collective, which has performed hundreds of whale necropsies, said it has never seen so much debris in the stomach of a gray whale. Researchers said items found inside the gray whale included small towels, sweatpants, plastic bags, surgical gloves, a golf ball and small bits of plastic. Though the volume of junk was unusual, scientists said the debris was probably not what killed the whale. The cause of the whale's death is still being investigated. ...


I bet it was the sweatpants.

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Fri, Apr 16, 2010
from CBC:
Atlantic plastic garbage patch found
The floating garbage -- hard to spot from the surface and spun together by a vortex of currents -- was documented by two groups of scientists who trawled the sea between scenic Bermuda and Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores islands. The studies describe a soup of micro-particles similar to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a phenomenon discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California that researchers say is likely to exist in other places around the globe. "We found the great Atlantic garbage patch," said Anna Cummins, who collected plastic samples on a sailing voyage in February. The debris is harmful for fish, sea mammals -- and at the top of the food chain, potentially humans -- even though much of the plastic has broken into such tiny pieces they are nearly invisible. Since there is no realistic way of cleaning the oceans, advocates say the key is to keep more plastic out by raising awareness and, wherever possible, challenging a throwaway culture that uses non-biodegradable materials for disposable products. "Our job now is to let people know that plastic ocean pollution is a global problem -- it unfortunately is not confined to a single patch," Cummins said. ...


"Confined to a single patch"!

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Fri, Apr 16, 2010
from Reuters, via DesdemonaDespair:
World marine debris totals 10 million pieces in 1-day cleanup
More than 10 million pieces of trash were plucked from the world's waterways in a single day last year. But for Philippe Cousteau, the beach sandals that washed up in the Norwegian arctic symbolized the global nature of the problem of marine debris. "We saw flip-flops washing ashore on these islands in far northern Norway near the Arctic Circle," Cousteau, a conservationist and grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, said in a telephone interview.... "People don't wear flip-flops in the Arctic, at least not if they're sane," Cousteau said. "I think people are starting ... to realize that this is a global problem." ... Last year, 10,239,538 pieces of junk were retrieved from shorelines on one day, September 19, 2009, by about half a million volunteers in the conservancy's annual international coastal cleanup. This year's cleanup day is September 25. ... Nearly 20 percent of the items collected threaten public health, including bacteria-laden medical waste, appliances, cars and chemical drums, the report said. Some debris is a threat to marine animals, which can become tangled in dumped fishing nets and line or ingest floating plastic junk. ...


Unfortunately, "sanity" has not been demonstrated to be held in high regard.

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Thu, Apr 15, 2010
from Environmental Health News:
BPA makes mice anxious, forgetful
Memory and anxiety behavior were affected in mice that were exposed to low levels of BPA as youngsters, adding more concrete evidence that early life exposure to the synthetic estrogen can alter brain function. Mice exposed to low levels of bisphenol A (BPA) during early development had impaired memory and altered levels of anxiety later in life, finds a study published in the journal Synapse. These behavioral effects could be related to the changes seen in certain regions of the rodents' brains that control cognition and impulsiveness. The results support a growing body of research that suggests exposure to BPA early in life alters brain development and affects behaviors in a number of ways. It also adds more evidence to concerns about exposure of humans to BPA during fetal development and infancy. The period of exposure in this study is similar to the third trimester and right after birth in people. ...


My god, that's terrible... wait. what... what was I talking about?

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Mon, Apr 5, 2010
from Mount Sinai Hospital, via EurekAlert:
Exposure to 3 classes of common chemicals may affect female development
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that exposure to three common chemical classes--phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens--in young girls may disrupt the timing of pubertal development, and put girls at risk for health complications later in life. The study, the first to examine the effects of these chemicals on pubertal development, is currently published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. "Research has shown that early pubertal development in girls can have adverse social and medical effects, including cancer and diabetes later in life," said Dr. Mary Wolff, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Oncological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "Our research shows a connection between chemicals that girls are exposed to on a daily basis and either delayed or early development. While more research is needed, these data are an important first step in continuing to evaluate the impact of these common environmental agents in putting girls at risk."... Phenols, phthalates and phytoestrogens are among chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which interfere with the body's endocrine, or hormone, system. They are found in a wide range of consumer products, such as nail polishes, where they increase durability, and in cosmetics, perfumes, lotions, and shampoos, where they carry fragrance. Some are used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastics such as PVC, or are included as coatings on medications or nutritional supplements to make them timed-release. ...


Phenolical. Or is that "phthalacious"?

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Thu, Apr 1, 2010
from via ScienceDaily:
Microbial Answer to Plastic Pollution?
Fragments of plastic in the ocean are not just unsightly but potentially lethal to marine life. Coastal microbes may offer a smart solution to clean up plastic contamination, according to Jesse Harrison presenting his research at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh.... The new study investigated the attachment of microbes to fragments of polyethylene -- a plastic commonly used for shopping bags. The scientists found that the plastic was rapidly colonised by multiple species of bacteria that congregated together to form a 'biofilm' on its surface. ...


Go forth ... and colonize.

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Wed, Mar 31, 2010
from London Independent:
Bad chemistry: The poison in the plastic that surrounds us
...BPA is one of the commonest chemicals in the world. Since it was discovered that it toughened plastic in the 1950s, the chemical has become embedded in the stuff of everyday life. Every time you make a call on a mobile phone or tap something into a computer, handle a compact disc or sports equipment, put on sunglasses or paint your nails, drink water from your tap or run your tongue against a tooth filling, you may be in contact with BPA... BPA, they believe, may be a factor in the rising incidence of a myriad of human illnesses, such as breast cancer, heart disease and genital birth defects. ...


That the "P" in BPA stands for "Poison" shoulda been a tip-off.

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Mon, Mar 29, 2010
from HuffingtonPost:
EPA Launching Major Investigation Into BPA
The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday it will investigate the impact of the chemical Bisphenol-A on the U.S. water supply and other parts of the environment. Federal regulators have been ramping up their scrutiny of the controversial plastic-hardener at the behest of scientists and activists who say it can interfere with infant growth and development. The EPA said in a statement it will begin measuring levels of BPA in drinking and ground water. More than 1 million pounds of BPA are released into the environment each year, according to the agency.... Dozens of animal studies have linked the chemical to abnormal growths and cancerous tumors, but those results have never been confirmed in humans. The FDA and has set aside $30 million to study BPA's safety over the next 18 to 24 months. ...


I thank the heavens every day that humans aren't animals.

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Sat, Mar 27, 2010
from GOOD, via DesdemonaDespair:
Infographic of the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre
Fabulous overview exploration of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the ocean cloud of plastic particles slowly turning, turning. "The sun breaks down plastic into smaller and smaller pieces, but can never break it down entirely. Unlike organic materials, which eventually biodegrade, the plastic breaks into ever smaller pieces while still remaining a polymer. As it breaks apart, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms... Plastic waste enters the food chain." ...


C'mon guys -- can't we invent a plastic magnet?

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Fri, Mar 26, 2010
from London Guardian:
Blighted beaches: Britain's shores are drowning in litter
From the mundane debris of food wrappers and cigarette butts, to a laboratory incubator and a dead goat, Britain's beaches are strewn with litter, according to the Marine Conservation Society. The volunteers who conducted the survey, the UK's biggest, found one piece for each step along the shore. The results showed litter levels along the coasts have increased dramatically since 1994, from 1,000 items per kilometre to over 1,800 items. It also found that plastic litter was at its highest level ever. In 2009, the overall number of items on beaches declined - falling 16 percent from last year's record high to 342,000. But the percentage of plastic litter reached an unprecedented 64 percent. Emma Snowden, litter projects coordinator at MCS, said: "It's a lot of these single throwaway items." ...


For humans, it seems, earth itself is a throwaway item.

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Wed, Mar 24, 2010
from Wired:
Chemical From Plastic Water Bottles Found Throughout Oceans
A survey of 200 sites in 20 countries around the world has found that bisphenol A, a synthetic compound that mimics estrogen and is linked to developmental disorders, is ubiquitous in Earth's oceans. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is found mostly in shatter-proof plastics and epoxy resins. Most people have trace amounts in their bodies, likely absorbed from food containers. Its hormone-mimicking properties make it a potent endocrine system disruptor. In recent years, scientists have moved from studying BPA's damaging effects in laboratory animals to linking it to heart disease, sterility and altered childhood development in humans. In their new findings, they showed that BPA-containing hard plastics can break down too, and found BPA in ocean water and sand at concentrations ranging from .01 to .50 parts per million. ...


This story seems to imply that humans have some responsibility. What about the natural variation of BPA in the ocean?

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Mon, Mar 22, 2010
from Annie Leonard, via HuffingtonPost:
The Story of Bottled Water: Fear, Manufactured Demand and a $10,000 Sandwich
[On World Water Day, along] with a bunch of North America's leading environmental groups ... release our new film: The Story of Bottled Water. It's a seven-minute animated film that, like The Story of Stuff, uses simple images and words to explain a complex problem caused by what I call the 'take-make-waste' economy. In this case, we explain how you get Americans to buy half a billion bottles of water a week when most can get it almost free from the tap in their kitchen.... Each year, according to the Pacific Institute's Peter Gleick, making the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. takes enough oil and energy to fuel a million cars. And that doesn't even include the fuel required to ship, fly or truck water across continents and state lines.... Three-fourths of the half-a-billion plastic water bottles sold in the U.S. every week go to the landfill or to incinerators. It costs our cities more than $70 million to landfill water bottles alone each year, according to Corporate Accountability International. ...


I like the convenience.

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Sat, Mar 20, 2010
from :
Perils of plastics: Risks to human health and the environment
Halden's study reiterates the fact that the effects to the environment from plastic waste are acute. Measurements from the most contaminated regions of the world's oceans show that the mass of plastics exceeds that of plankton sixfold. Patches of oceanic garbage--some as large as the state of Texas--hold a high volume of non-biodegradable plastics.... "We're doomed to live with yesterday's plastic pollution and we are exacerbating the situation with each day of unchanged behavior," he said.... BPA has been recognized since the 1940s as an endocrine disrupting chemical that interferes with normal hormonal function. Adding to the health risks associated with BPA is the fact that other ingredients--such as plasticizers [like pthalates]--are commonly added to plastics.... "Today, there's a complete mismatch between the useful lifespan of the products we consume and their persistence in the environment." Prominent examples of offending products are the ubiquitous throwaway water bottles, Teflon-coated dental floss and cotton swabs made with plastic PVC sticks. All are typically used for a matter of seconds or minutes, yet are essentially non-biodegradable and will persist in the environment, sometimes for millennia. ...


Are you asking me to give up my single-use plastic toothpick?

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Wed, Mar 17, 2010
from London Daily Telegraph:
The Biggest Dump in the World
Fifty years ago, most flotsam was biodegradable. Now it is 90 per cent plastic. In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that there were 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in every square mile of ocean. With its stubborn refusal to biodegrade, all plastic not buried in landfills - roughly half of it - sweeps into streams and sewers and then out into rivers and, finally, the ocean. Some of it - some say as much as 70 per cent - sinks to the ocean floor. The remainder floats, usually within 20 metres of the surface, and is carried into stable circular currents, or gyres "like ocean ring-roads", says Dr Boxall. Once inside these gyres, the plastic is drawn by wind and surface currents towards the centre, where it steadily accumulates. The world's major oceans all have these gyres, and all are gathering rubbish. Although the North Pacific - bordering California, Japan and China - is the biggest, there are also increasingly prominent gyres in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. Our problems with plastics are only just beginning. ...


Planet Plearth

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Tue, Mar 9, 2010
from PhysOrg.com:
IBM, Stanford cite advance in plastic recycling
When you recycle a plastic bottle, it doesn't necessarily become another plastic bottle. Because of limitations in recycling technology, a common type of plastic used in water bottles and food containers weakens so much when it's recycled that it can't be used again for the same purpose. Some small amount of the plastic might make it into another bottle, but more often than not, it instead becomes synthetic carpet or clothing and can't easily be recycled a second time. So when those products are used up, they end up in landfills. Researchers from IBM Corp. and Stanford University believe they have developed a way to significantly improve the quality of recycled plastic and strip away those limitations.... The innovation is a new family of catalysts that can reduce polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic to its basic building blocks, while retaining its original properties and making it "ridiculously economical" to build it back up again, said Bob Allen, senior manager of chemistry and functional materials for IBM's Almaden research center in Silicon Valley. ...


"Ridiculously economical" has such a ring to it.

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Fri, Mar 5, 2010
from Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
Scientist: 'There's still time' to save the oceans
"There's a great opportunity to take action to save what we can while we still can, but we first have to understand what is going on," Earle said in the Montana State University Friends of Stegner Lecture at the Ellen Theatre on Thursday evening. "What is going on," according to Earle, includes the deterioration of the world's coral reefs, the overfishing and poaching of important ocean carnivores like the blue fin tuna and increased pollution of the sea, largely a result of Western abundance and overindulgence. Due to industrialized nations' insatiable appetite for tuna, a 200-kilogram tuna can be sold for $100,000, Earle said, making it one of the most overfished species in the world.... "We take 100 million tons of wildlife out of the sea every year," she said, "and most of it is just bycatch," caught unintentionally by fishermen after the big-ticket fish.... "This is a moment in time, maybe a decade, when there's still a chance," she said. ...


Eminent scientists do great standup.

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Thu, Feb 25, 2010
from FASAB, via EurekAlert:
Why BPA leached from 'safe' plastics may damage health of female offspring
New research published online in The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) suggests that exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy leads to epigenetic changes that may cause permanent reproduction problems for female offspring. BPA, a common component of plastics used to contain food, is a type of estrogen that is ubiquitous in the environment.... BPA has been widely used in plastics and other materials. Examples include use in water bottles, baby bottles, epoxy resins used to coat food cans, and dental sealants.... "We need to better identify the effects of environmental contaminants on not just crude measures such as birth defects, but also their effect in causing more subtle developmental errors."... These epigenetic changes caused the mice to over-respond to estrogen throughout adulthood, long after the BPA exposure. This suggests that early exposure to BPA genetically "programmed" the uterus to be hyper-responsive to estrogen. Extreme estrogen sensitivity can lead to fertility problems, advanced puberty, altered mammary development and reproductive function, as well as a variety of hormone-related cancers. BPA has been widely used in plastics and other materials. Examples include use in water bottles, baby bottles, epoxy resins used to coat food cans, and dental sealants. ...


Are you implying that one can extrapolate that effect to other mammals?

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Mon, Feb 8, 2010
from Der Spiegel:
Global Ocean Protection Measures Have Failed
Thousands of tons of trash are thrown into the sea each year, endangering humans and wildlife. A classified German government report obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE indicates that efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to clean up our oceans have failed entirely. Since the world's oceans are so massive, few people seem to have a problem with dumping waste into them. But plastics degrade at very a slow rate, and huge amounts of them are sloshing around in our oceans. Wildlife consumes small pieces causing many of them to die, since the plastics are full of poisons. And, as experts warn, we've reached a point where it's even getting dangerous for humans to consume seafood... Our oceans have devolved into vast garbage dumps. ...


That fills some need, doesn't it?

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Tue, Feb 2, 2010
from Environmental Health News:
Human placenta cells die after BPA exposure.
Exposure to very low concentrations of the plasticizer bisphenol A (BPA) causes cellular damage and death in cultured human placenta cells, researchers report. The doses used for this study are similar to blood levels found in pregnant women. A particularly worrying finding is that effects were most pronounced at the lowest -- rather than the highest -- concentrations of BPA indicating that placental development could be particularly sensitive to BPA exposure. Damage to the placenta can induce a range of adverse pregnancy outcomes including premature birth, preeclampsia or even pregnancy loss. It is not known if exposure to BPA is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes in humans. ...


Guess I won't be eating placentas anymore.

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Sat, Jan 16, 2010
from Environmental Health News:
FDA shifts stance on BPA, announces "some concern" about children's health
In a major shift, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it has "some concern" about the effects of bisphenol A on children's health and is launching new research to answer key questions that may lead to regulation of the chemical. The announcement basically puts the federal government's regulatory agency in line with federal scientists when it comes to the controversial, estrogen-like chemical. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that her agency has embraced the conclusion of the National Toxicology Program, which announced two years ago after a review of the science that there is "some concern" about developmental and reproductive problems in infants and children exposed to BPA. ...


Way to go, Fart-around and Delay Administration.

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Thu, Jan 7, 2010
from Santa Monica Daily Press:
Researchers set sail to study plastic
Cummins and Eriksen will be skimming the ocean's surface with a plankton net to collect plastic and fish that surface at night to forage for food. Past expeditions have found fish with plastic in their stomachs. Plastics act as magnets for toxic chemicals like PCB. Smaller fish consume plastics. Larger fish like tuna and mahi-mahi then eat those smaller fish, ingesting the toxins, which could ultimately harm humans. "We want to see if there are large concentrations of these chemicals in our food chain, ending up on our dinner plates," she said. Their journey will involve several voyages. The first will launch from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and take them across the Sargasso Sea -- an elongated region in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean roughly 700 miles by 2,000 miles -- to the Azores.... "It will be a honeymoon of sorts," Cummins said. "We got married recently in the middle of a garbage patch so it seemed fitting to make this our honeymoon." ...


If only our honeymoon [with plastic] were over.

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Wed, Dec 23, 2009
from Newsweek:
The Great Pacific Cleanup
Since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world's biggest communal garbage dump, was discovered swirling about 1,000 miles north of Hawaii in 1997, scientists and environmentalists have dared to dream if a cleanup might be possible. Consisting of an estimated 3.5 million tons of trash and scattered over an area roughly the size of the continental United States, the garbage comes from countries all over the world, most of it flushed through waterways leading to the ocean.... Now an unlikely partnership between ocean scientists and the waste-management industry is working on ways to clean up the mess... There's no perfect way to fish it all out of the ocean, especially not without harming ocean creatures in the process. ...


As a species we have pissed in the wind, and shat where we sleep.

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Mon, Dec 14, 2009
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Pacific swimmer to be message in a bottle
AS IF swimming 9000 kilometres from Japan to the US is not enough of a challenge, Richard Pain is also planning to plough through the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of plastic junk almost the size of the Northern Territory. "I realise it's completely mad," said the filmmaker, 45, who is selling his Randwick home to raise some of the money needed for the project. "But I'm aware there is a lot of green fatigue in the broader population. This is a way to try and raise awareness by doing something more compelling. It's like trying to do an environmental version of Super Size Me." Mr Pain, a keen ocean swimmer and environmentalist, said he was unfazed by the fact no one had ever managed to swim across the Pacific. ...


Man, this guy is sure living up to his name.

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Mon, Nov 30, 2009
from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
FDA likely to delay ruling on BPA
Despite months of additional study and a self-imposed timetable, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration likely will not release its ruling Monday on the safety of bisphenol A, a chemical used in thousands of household products that has been linked to developmental and behavioral problems. Sources told the Journal Sentinel the agency instead is likely to ask for more time as its scientists consider hundreds of new studies on the chemical's effects. Last year, relying on two studies paid for by BPA-makers, the FDA held the chemical was safe for all uses. But the FDA's own science board recommended that the agency had not considered enough of the other studies on the chemical. Earlier this year, the FDA said it would review its findings and set the Nov. 30 deadline. ...


Does the P in BPA stands for Procrastinate?

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Mon, Nov 16, 2009
from University of Rochester, via EurekAlert:
Pilot study relates phthalate exposure to less-masculine play by boys
A study of 145 preschool children reports, for the first time, that when the concentrations of two common phthalates in mothers' prenatal urine are elevated their sons are less likely to play with male-typical toys and games, such as trucks and play fighting.... Because testosterone produces the masculine brain, researchers are concerned that fetal exposure to anti-androgens such as phthalates -- which are pervasive in the environment -- has the potential to alter masculine brain development... Phthalates are also found in vinyl and plastic tubing, household products, and many personal care products such as soaps and lotions. Phthalates are becoming more controversial as scientific research increasingly associates them with genital defects, metabolic abnormalities, and reduced testosterone in babies and adults. ...


Maybe this is how we wipe out war!

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Tue, Nov 10, 2009
from New York Times:
Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash
Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one -- an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.... PCBs, DDT and other toxic chemicals cannot dissolve in water, but the plastic absorbs them like a sponge. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny plastic particles. Scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation say that fish tissues contain some of the same chemicals as the plastic. The scientists speculate that toxic chemicals are leaching into fish tissue from the plastic they eat. ...


What's that? You want to turn back time?

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Thu, Oct 8, 2009
from PhysOrg.com:
BPA linked to aggressive behavior in young girls, research suggests
The findings, which are preliminary and call for more study, are the first to connect behavior problems in humans with the chemical bisphenol A, which is a key component of plastic bottles, the liners inside canned goods and medical devices. The chemical leaches from plastic and is detectable at some level in nearly everyone's system. Scientists began to raise concerns about BPA because of its tendency to mimic estrogen -- a hormone that plays a crucial role in establishing the sex differences in the brains of developing fetuses. Studies in mice have shown fetal BPA exposure can abolish or reverse inherent behavioral differences between the sexes -- specifically, females act more aggressive -- and those studies prompted questions about what the chemical does to humans.... They found that women who had the highest concentrations of BPA at 16 weeks of pregnancy were inclined to have more aggressive, hyperactive 2-year-old daughters. There was no statistically significant change of behavior among the boys, although there was some evidence of heightened anxiety and depression. ...


What's next, playground fights where manly-girls bully the girly-men?

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Tue, Sep 29, 2009
from London Times:
Third World population controls won't save climate, study claims
The population explosion in poor countries will contribute little to climate change and is a dangerous distraction from the main problem of over-consumption in rich nations, a study has found. It challenges claims by leading environmentalists, including Sir David Attenborough and Jonathon Porritt, that strict birth control is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The study concludes that spending billions of pounds of aid on contraception in the developing world will not benefit the climate because poor countries have such low emissions. It says that Britain and other Western countries should instead focus on reducing consumption of goods, services and energy among their own populations. ...


Door #3: Rich nations should have population controls!

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Tue, Sep 29, 2009
from DC Bureau:
Fish and Paint Chips Part II: The Politics of Ocean Trash
When it comes to reducing garbage in the world's oceans, the political angle is just as important as the scientific, to judge by industry's behavior. On Aug. 18, Seattle voters passed by a 53-47 margin a referendum to overturn a 20-cent fee approved last year by the city council for using plastic bags at supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other public information, the referendum was backed primarily by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the plastics industry trade association, and the 7-11 chain of convenience stores. The ACC made local headlines with its all-out summer media blitz to promote the referendum, ultimately spending $1.4 million before the vote was held. In comparison, the Seattle Green Bag Campaign to support the fee raised less than $100,000. In a press release trumpeting its victory, the ACC argued that whatever its environmental implications, plastic is good for the economy. ...


Sometimes... I just don't think we deserve the earth.

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Thu, Sep 24, 2009
from DC Bureau:
Fish and Paint Chips Part I: The Science of Trash
Recent research has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concerned that the huge quantities of metal, plastic, paint chips and other man-made debris floating at sea, hundreds and even thousands of miles from land, may be working their way into the American diet. NOAA, a part of the Commerce Department, largely exists to track weather patterns and hurricanes, and its entry into the public health sphere serves as an indication of how severe the problem has become. It is not too much to suggest that millions of seafood lovers might be ingesting the very chemicals that land-based health and safety regulations are designed to keep out of reach. ...


What goes around... comes around.

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Sun, Sep 13, 2009
from Minneapolis Star Tribune, Karen Youso:
Plastic elastic and other confessions of a plastic sinner who tried, for a few days, to go without.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean floats a mass of plastic waste twice the size of Texas. Acres of bobbing bottles, bags and Barbie shoes, it's where plastic trash comes to rest in the ocean. Actually, it doesn't rest. Despite what we've heard -- that plastic lasts a thousand years -- it doesn't. A recent study reveals that plastic breaks down a lot faster than that, but into toxic elements. To what end, nobody yet knows. Long before it's trash, however, plastic leaches toxins into our bodies (a premise strongly objected to by the FDA and the plastics industry), and nobody knows the long-term consequences of that, either.... I think I hate plastic. I'm going to forgo plastic for six days, a plastic mini-Lent, it might be called, and learn a new way of living. Split with plastic, and worries about the health effects, recycling and pollution all go away. ...


Six days without plastic is like a month without sunshine.

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Wed, Sep 2, 2009
from San Jose Mercury News:
'Pacific Garbage Patch' expedition finds plastic, plastic everywhere
Scientists who returned to the Bay Area this week after an expedition to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" brought piles of plastic debris they pulled out of the ocean -- soda bottles, cracked patio chairs, Styrofoam chunks, old toys, discarded fishing floats and tangled nets. But what alarmed them most, they said Tuesday, was the nearly inconceivable amount of tiny, confettilike pieces of broken plastic. They took hundreds of water samples between the Farallon Islands near San Francisco and the notorious garbage patch 1,000 miles west of California, and every one had tiny bits of plastic floating in it. And the closer they sailed to the garbage patch, which some researchers have estimated to be twice the size of Texas, the more plastic pieces per gallon they found... crews on the three-week voyage discovered tiny jellyfish eating bits of the plastic debris. The jellyfish are, in turn, eaten by fish like salmon or tuna, which people eat. ...


Planet Plastic

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Sat, Aug 29, 2009
from American Chemical Society, via EurekAlert:
Plastics in oceans decompose, release hazardous chemicals, surprising new study says
In the first study to look at what happens over the years to the billions of pounds of plastic waste floating in the world's oceans, scientists are reporting that plastics -- reputed to be virtually indestructible -- decompose with surprising speed and release potentially toxic substances into the water.... "We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future." He said that polystyrene begins to decompose within one year, releasing components that are detectable in the parts-per-million range.... his team found that when plastic decomposes it releases potentially toxic bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer into the water, causing additional pollution. Plastics usually do not break down in an animal's body after being eaten. However, the substances released from decomposing plastic are absorbed and could have adverse effects. BPA and PS oligomer are sources of concern because they can disrupt the functioning of hormones in animals and can seriously affect reproductive systems. ...


At least we'll eventually be rid of that unsightly Pacific Garbage Patch!

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Mon, Aug 24, 2009
from Associated Press:
Analysis: Mo. bans wrong plastic from rivers
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A law that takes effect this week could make criminals out of those who bring Tupperware onto many of Missouri's rivers. Lawmakers intended to reduce floating debris and pollution from abandoned foam coolers in the state's waterways. But they confused their plastics, and instead of banning Styrofoam, they criminalized the plastic containers found in many kitchens but seldom used to ferry beer and soda down a river. The mix up means boaters and river floaters can still use foam coolers without fear. But someone who brings dishwasher-safe containers risks up to a year in jail. ...


D'oh! These lawmakers are Flawmakers!

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Sun, Aug 23, 2009
from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
BPA industry fights back
...For decades, the chemical industry has been able to control the debate on whether BPA is harmful to human health. Now the Food and Drug Administration, which had relied on industry-financed studies to declare the chemical safe, is reconsidering its determination. The decision is expected by Nov. 30.... The industry has launched an unprecedented public relations blitz that uses many of the same tactics - and people - the tobacco industry used in its decades-long fight against regulation. This time, the industry's arsenal includes state-of-the-art technology. Their modern-day Trojan horses: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube. A four-month investigation by the Journal Sentinel reveals a highly calibrated campaign by plastics makers to fight federal regulation of BPA, downplay its risks and discredit anyone who characterizes the chemical as a health threat. ...


Boy. They're playing some hard plastic ball.

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Fri, Aug 21, 2009
from Mongabay:
Plastic Vortexes Leaching Chemicals into World's Oceans
While scientists have acknowledged the existence of billions of pounds of plastic containers, Styrofoam, and similar waste have created massive oceanic trash vortexes (floating islands of garbage), little is known of the effects of the dissolution of these materials into the water. Recent studies have found that under certain climate conditions, ocean plastic can decompose in under a year, leaching potentially toxic chemicals into the water.... "Most people in the world believe that this plastic is indestructible for a very long time. We are now concerned that plastic pollution is caused by invisible materials. This will have a great effect on marine life." ...


"Invisible materials" like endocrine disruptors, pthalates, methylmercury, or the other heavy metals? Or PCBs?
C'mon, what?

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Aug 12, 2009
from New York Times:
China's Incinerators Loom as a Global Hazard
After surpassing the United States as the world's largest producer of household garbage, China has embarked on a vast program to build incinerators as landfills run out of space. But these incinerators have become a growing source of toxic emissions, from dioxin to mercury, that can damage the body’s nervous system. And these pollutants, particularly long-lasting substances like dioxin and mercury, are dangerous not only in China, a growing body of atmospheric research based on satellite observations suggests. They float on air currents across the Pacific to American shores.... [However, at] the other end of Shenzhen from Longgang, no smoke is visible from the towering smokestack of the Baoan incinerator... Government tests show that it emits virtually no dioxin and other pollutants. But the Baoan incinerator cost 10 times as much as the Longgang incinerators, per ton of trash-burning capacity. The difference between the Baoan and Longgang incinerators lies at the center of a growing controversy in China. ...


As if heavy metals could float on air!

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Tue, Aug 4, 2009
from The Daily Green:
Congress to FDA: Prove Bisphenol A Safe, or Ban It
A little-noticed portion of the landmark food safety bill could have a big impact on the composition of consumer products, leading to the elimination of Bisphenol A in plastics now widely used in a range of plastic products aimed at pregnant women and young children. If the Senate keeps the provision in the final food safety bill, the Food and Drug Administration will have until the end of 2009 to determine whether the chemical is safe; if it cannot make a determination, then it must restrict the use of Bisphenol A in products designed for pregnant women, babies and young children, according to a provision inserted in the bill by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.). ...


Quickest way to get an answer: Ask the plastics industry!

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Sat, Aug 1, 2009
from National Geographic News:
Giant Ocean-Trash Vortex Attracts Explorers
It may lack the allure of the North Pole or Mount Everest, but a Pacific Ocean trash dump twice the size of Texas is this summer's hot destination for explorers. The Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, situated in remote waters between California and Hawaii, is created by ocean currents that pick up millions of tons of the world's discarded plastic... This summer, two separate expeditions will set sail for the patch to document the scope of the problem and call global attention to disastrous ocean pollution...Follow the Kaisei expedition's progress with an interactive voyage tracker: http://www.projectkaisei.org/ ...


You had me @ "hot"!

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Thu, Jul 9, 2009
from Associated Press:
H2-WHOA! Australian town bans bottled water sales
SYDNEY -- Residents of a rural Australian town hoping to protect the earth and their wallets have voted to ban the sale of bottled water, the first community in the country -- and possibly the world -- to take such a drastic step in the growing backlash against the industry. Residents of Bundanoon cheered after their near-unanimous approval of the measure at a town meeting Wednesday. It was the second blow to Australia's beverage industry in one day: Hours earlier, the New South Wales state premier banned all state departments and agencies from buying bottled water, calling it a waste of money and natural resources. ...


Cheers, mate!

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Tue, Jul 7, 2009
from University of Michigan, via EurekAlert:
Phthalates may play a role in pre-term births
A new study of expectant mothers suggests that a group of common environmental contaminants called phthalates, which are present in many industrial and consumer products including everyday personal care items, may contribute to the country's alarming rise in premature births. Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that women who deliver prematurely have, on average, up to three times the phthalate level in their urine compared to women who carry to term.... Phthalates are commonly used compounds in plastics, personal care products, home furnishings (vinyl flooring, carpeting, paints, etc.) and many other consumer and industrial products. The toxicity varies by specific phthalates or their breakdown products, but past studies show that several phthalates cause reproductive and developmental toxicity in animals. ...


I just learned how to spell phthalates, and now you're saying it's bad?

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Thu, Jun 11, 2009
from McClatchy Newspapers:
U.N. environment chief urges global ban on plastic bags
Single-use plastic bags, a staple of American life, have got to go, the United Nations' top environmental official said Monday. Although recycling bags is on the rise in the United States , an estimated 90 billion thin bags a year, most used to handle produce and groceries, go unrecycled. They were the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts at the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup Day sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, a marine environmental group... According to the report, "Plastic, the most prevalent component of marine debris, poses hazards because it persists so long in the ocean, degrading into tinier and tinier bits that can be consumed by the smallest marine life at the base of the food web." ...


Kind of like Zeno's paradox about the arrow in flight.

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Sun, Jun 7, 2009
from CNN:
Search for downed plane highlights ocean trash problem
The massive amount of garbage in the ocean likely complicates the search for the remains of an Air France flight that went missing Monday near Brazil, oceanographers who spoke with CNN said. Earlier this week, investigators said they had located pieces of the plane in the southern Atlantic Ocean, which might have given them clues to the origin of Air France Flight 447's crash. But on Thursday, Brazilian officials said what they had found was nothing more than run-of-the-mill ocean trash.... Much of the ocean trash is plastic, which means it won't go away for hundreds of years, if ever. And the problem has gotten so bad that soupy "garbage patches" have developed in several locations, called gyres, where ocean currents swirl. One of them is estimated to be the size of Texas. There are about five or six major trash-collecting gyres in the world's oceans, with the most famous located in the Pacific Ocean about midway between North America and Asia... ...


At least the trash is trying to be tidy.

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Thu, May 21, 2009
from Harvard School of Medicine, via EurekAlert:
BPA, chemical used to make plastics, found to leach from polycarbonate drinking bottles into humans
A new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that participants who drank for a week from polycarbonate bottles, the popular, hard-plastic drinking bottles and baby bottles, showed a two-thirds increase in their urine of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Exposure to BPA, used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics, has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans. The study is the first to show that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA, and thus suggests that drinking containers made with BPA release the chemical into the liquid that people drink in sufficient amounts to increase the level of BPA excreted in human urine.... BPA is also found in dentistry composites and sealants and in the lining of aluminum food and beverage cans. (In bottles, polycarbonate can be identified by the recycling number 7.) Numerous studies have shown that it acts as an endocrine-disruptor in animals, including early onset of sexual maturation, altered development and tissue organization of the mammary gland and decreased sperm production in offspring. It may be most harmful in the stages of early development. ...


But BPA is everywhere. Surely it can't be bad for us.

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Thu, May 21, 2009
from Chemistry World:
Chemical pollution gets personal
In their book Slow death by rubber duck, the pair detail a weekend testing spree incorporating regular blood and urine sampling. Indoors for 12-hour shifts, they used typical amounts of personal care products and a plug-in air freshener, in a room with stain-repellent furnishings and carpets. 'We set only one ironclad rule: our efforts had to mimic real life,' says Smith. Of six different phthalates in the testing regime, rocketing levels of monoethyl phthalate (MEP) -- which the body metabolises from diethyl phthalate (DEP) the most common phthalate in cosmetics and personal care products -- were most stark. Levels in urine went from 64 to 1410ng/ml. According to the European Commission's Scientific Committee for Cosmetic Products (SCCP), traces of up to 100 ppm total or per substance pose no risk to health, although traces of banned phthalates are sometimes present due to other possible uses, such as in packaging. Phthalates are plasticising chemicals, linked to abnormal reproductive development.... Levels of bisphenol A -- an endocrine disruptor linked to breast and prostate cancer -- increased 7.5 times after eating canned foods from a microwavable, polycarbonate plastic container. ...


What if I am what I eat?

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Mon, May 18, 2009
from BusinessGreen:
Coca-Cola debuts 'PlantBottle'
Coca-Cola has become the latest firm to step up its interest in the field of bioplastics, with the unveiling last week of plastic bottles made partially from plants. Dubbed the PlantBottle, the plastic bottle is made from a blend of petroleum-based materials and 30 per cent plant-based materials sourced from sugar cane and molasses. The company said that the bottle had an edge over some other plant-based plastics, as it can be processed through existing recycling facilities without contaminating traditional PET and as a result it can still be recycled easily without having to be separated from conventional plastics. Some environmental groups have raised questions about the long-term sustainability of bioplastics, warning that as with biofuels, increased demand for crops could lead to shortages and contribute to deforestation. ...


Plastics giveth, plastics taketh away.

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Sun, May 17, 2009
from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
FDA relied heavily on BPA lobby
As federal regulators hold fast to their claim that a chemical in baby bottles is safe, e-mails obtained by the Journal Sentinel show that they relied on chemical industry lobbyists to examine bisphenol A's risks, track legislation to ban it and even monitor press coverage. In one instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's deputy director sought information from the BPA industry's chief lobbyist to discredit a Japanese study that found it caused miscarriages in workers who were exposed to it. This was before government scientists even had a chance to review the study.... The FDA relied on two studies - both paid for by chemical makers - to form the framework of its draft review declaring BPA to be safe. ...


Government in bed with industry...? Sounds SEXY!

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Mon, May 4, 2009
from ABC News:
Plastic bag ban begins
South Australia has become the first state to ban lightweight plastic checkout bags. The ban is expected to reduce the 400 million bags a year which end up in dumps. Shops must supply reusable or environmentally friendly alternatives such as cornstarch or paper bags. Retailers could get an on the spot fine of $315, or a maximum penalty of $5,000 if they are caught breaching the ban. ...


Quit being a bag nag!

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Sun, May 3, 2009
from Times Online (UK):
Mission to break up Pacific island of rubbish twice the size of Texas
A high-seas mission departs from San Francisco next month to map and explore a sinister and shifting 21st-century continent: one twice the size of Texas and created from six million tonnes of discarded plastic. Scientists and conservationists on the expedition will begin attempts to retrieve and recycle a monument to throwaway living in the middle of the North Pacific.... Because of their tiny size and the scale of the problem, he believes that nothing can be solved at sea. "Trying to clean up the Pacific gyre would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went." In June the 151 ft brigantine Kaisei (Japanese for Planet Ocean) will unfurl its sails in San Francisco to try to prove Mr Moore wrong. Project Kaisei's flagship will be joined by a decommissioned fishing trawler armed with specialised nets.... The UN's environmental programme estimates that 18,000 pieces of plastic have ended up in every square kilometre of the sea, totalling more than 100 million tonnes. ...


Perhaps we can just DNA-design a superbug that eats plastic. Surely that wouldn't have any unintended consequences.

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Fri, May 1, 2009
from BusinessGreen:
Plastic bag charge hailed as a huge success
Since launching a 5p charge for food bags last May as part of its Plan A scheme to reduce waste, Marks & Spencers says the number of bags taken to cart posh ready meals home has fallen by 80 per cent, from 460m bags a year to 80m. The National Trust, which introduced a charge on 1 May last year in its shops and garden centres, has managed to slash plastic bag usage by 85 per cent, or one million bags a year. It said just five per cent of its customers were now taking the disposable option.... Tesco, which offers one Green point to its clubcard customers for every bag they reuse, says it has cut bag use by 50 per cent since it launched the scheme in August 2006, saving three billion bags in the process. In the past year alone, 1.8bn bags have been saved. ...


One small step for each person; one small leap toward survival.

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Wed, Apr 29, 2009
from Discovery News:
Plastic Water Bottles May Pose Health Hazard
With all of the bad press swirling around certain types of plastic lately, regular old plastic water bottles have maintained a reputation as safe, at least as far as human health is concerned. New evidence, however, suggests that plastic water bottles may not be so benign after all. Scientists in Germany have found that PET plastics -- the kind used to make water bottles, among many other common products -- may also harbor hormone-disrupting chemicals that leach into the water. ... "What we found was really surprising to us," [lead researcher Martin] Wagner said. "If you drink water from plastic bottles, you have a high probability of drinking estrogenic compounds." ...


Hey, my man boobs could use a little definition.

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Sat, Apr 25, 2009
from London Daily Telegraph:
Drowning in plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of France
...The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has now been tentatively mapped into an east and west section and the combined weight of plastic there is estimated at three million tons and increasing steadily. It appears to be the big daddy of them all, but we do not know for sure. Dr Pearn Niiler of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in San Diego, the world's leading authority on ocean currents, thinks that there is an even bigger garbage patch in the South Pacific, in the vicinity of Easter Island, but no scientists have yet gone to look. ...


Well that'll balance things out at least.

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Wed, Apr 22, 2009
from Mother Jones:
Plastic? Fantastic
...Inexpensive to make and easy to discard, plastic morphed from an engineering triumph into a global scourge. In 1960, Americans sent 390,000 tons of plastics to the landfill; today we annually trash more than 28.5 million tons—around 11 percent of all municipal waste. Plastic doesn't biodegrade, and the very characteristic that makes it so versatile—its protean ability to be resilient or stiff, soft or hard, opaque or transparent—makes it extremely difficult to recycle efficiently. Even the most common recyclable categories of plastic (No. 1 water bottles, for instance) consist of incompatible polymers with different melting points. In 2007, less than 7 percent of Americans' plastic waste was recycled (mostly milk jugs and water and soda bottles), as opposed to 55 percent of paper. A 2000 survey by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) found that fewer than half of Americans had a positive opinion of the miracle material; 25 percent "strongly believed" that plastic's environmental negatives outweighed its benefits. ...


To top it off, my toy GI Joe shot me yesterday!

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Sun, Apr 12, 2009
from London Guardian:
Eco-warrior sets sail to save oceans from 'plastic death'
In a few weeks, the heir to one of the world's greatest fortunes, David de Rothschild, will set sail across the Pacific - in a boat, the Plastiki, made from plastic bottles and recycled waste. The aim of this extraordinary venture is simple: to focus attention on one of the world's strangest and most unpleasant environmental phenomena: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a rubbish-covered region of ocean, several hundred miles in diameter.... The plastic - most of it swept from coastal cities in Asia and California - is trapped indefinitely in the region by the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex of currents that circulate clockwise around the ocean. Scientists estimate that there is six times more plastic than plankton by weight in the patch and that this is having disastrous ecological consequences. Fish and seabirds mistake plastic for food and choke to death. At the same time, plastics absorb pollutants including PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and pesticides, bringing poisons into the food chain. ...


David is going up against the Goliath of pollution.

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Thu, Apr 9, 2009
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Litter on beaches in UK doubles in 14 years
The 2008 annual survey recorded and removed some 385,659 items of rubbish including plastic bags, sanitary items, fishing nets, cigarette butts and cotton bud sticks from beaches across the UK. The average amount of rubbish found was 2,195 items per kilometre (0.6 miles) -- more than two pieces for every metre (3.3ft) of beach, and more than double the 1,045 items per kilometre picked up during the first annual survey in 1994.... More than a third of the rubbish was generated by the public followed by fishing litter, sewage-related rubbish and debris from shipping. The worse problem was plastic, which accounted for more than half of the litter found. It never breaks down and is a threat to wildlife. ...


It's clear the Great Plastic Continent is not doing its job effectively.

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Thu, Mar 26, 2009
from Springer, via EurekAlert:
Hormone-mimics in plastic water bottles
In an analysis of commercially available mineral waters, the researchers found evidence of estrogenic compounds leaching out of the plastic packaging into the water. What's more, these chemicals are potent in vivo and result in an increased development of embryos in the New Zealand mud snail. These findings, which show for the first time that substances leaching out of plastic food packaging materials act as functional estrogens, are published in Springer's journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.... "We must have identified just the tip of the iceberg in that plastic packaging may be a major source of xenohormone contamination of many other edibles. Our findings provide an insight into the potential exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals due to unexpected sources of contamination." ...


I like my estrogenic compounds chilled.

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Sun, Mar 22, 2009
from The Japan Times:
Oceans awash in toxic seas of plastic
Go down to the beach today and you'll find plenty of garbage among the sand — but that's nothing compared with the continent-sized whirlpools of lethal waste out there beyond the horizon... Umbrella handles. Pens. Popsicle sticks. Lots and lots of toothbrushes. These are just a few of the items that make up the approximately 13 million sq. km Eastern Garbage Patch, an immense plastic soup in the Pacific Ocean that starts about 800 km off the coast of California and extends westward. Sucked from the coasts of Asia and America by ocean currents, or discarded at sea, plastic debris accumulates there in an ever-growing mass that does not biodegrade and is said to be already larger than the United States. Scientists have long known that plastic in the garbage patch and elsewhere is stuffing the stomachs of seabirds and causing them to starve, suffocating fish and choking marine turtles. But what is now becoming clear is that when pieces of plastic meet other pollutants in the ocean, the results can be even more toxic. That's because, as a growing number of studies are showing, the plastic debris absorbs harmful chemicals from the seawater it floats in, acting like a "pollution sponge" that concentrates those chemicals and poses a different, more insidious threat to marine and other life. ...


Perhaps we're just building a plastic Pangea!

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Sat, Mar 7, 2009
from Yale Environment 360:
The Pacific Garbage Patch
Speaking at the recent TED Conference in California, oceanographer Charles Moore -- who discovered and publicized the huge oceanic gyre of plastic waste known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" -- outlined the toll taken on marine life by plastic bottles and caps. Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, said that the massive use of plastic bottles -- Americans purchase 2 million plastic bottles every 5 minutes -- is leading to floating swaths of trash that are killing large numbers of seabirds and contaminating fish. Hundreds of thousands of albatross chicks die in the Pacific every year when their parents pluck bottle caps out of the sea -- thinking they are food -- and feed them to their offspring, Moore said. As the bottles and caps break down, they turn into plastic pellets that are ubiquitous in the Pacific "garbage patch," which is twice as large as Texas. One-third of the fish sampled by Moore's foundation contained plastic pellets in their stomachs, he said, adding that the pellets accumulate extremely high levels of so-called persistent organic pollutants. The solution, he said, is to change the world's "throwaway culture" and contain plastic waste on land. ...


New for Christmas '09: The Pacific Garbage Patch Dolls -- made from garbage!

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Sat, Mar 7, 2009
from Montreal Gazette:
The Styrofoam dilemma
It's in your plastic cutlery, it's under your meat, it's the lid on your latte. And it's in your world -- for at least 200 years longer than you will be -- clogging up storm drains and landfills. So why is this tenacious product, better known by its trademark, Styrofoam, still being used to wrap everything from green peppers to sirloin steaks?...Some numbers: - According to the French ministry of ecology and sustainable development, more than 14 million tons of polystyrene are produced every year around the world. Given its light weight -- Styrofoam is 95-per-cent air -- the volume it represents is huge. - Americans throw away an estimated 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year -- or about 82 cups per person. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says of the 3 million tons of polystyrene produced in the U.S., 2.3 million tons end up in landfills, with much of the remainder finding its way into waterways. - Indeed, so-called "white pollution" is the most common form of marine debris and costs local governments millions in storm-drain cleanup costs. ...


What's the dilemma? Just stop using it!

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Fri, Feb 27, 2009
from Scientific American:
The Great Garbage Patch
In 1997 Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, set sail from Hawaii and discovered, in a remote part of the North Pacific, an island -- made of plastic. Moore measured about 300,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometer back then, but a decade later there are approximately 2.3 million pieces of plastic per square kilometer. What is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now the size of the United States, according to Moore.... The plastic never degrades, but sunlight and wave friction break it into tiny particles, smaller than five millimeters, that remain suspended in the water. Holly Bamford, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says it's likely that filter feeders like clams or jellyfish are eating the plastic, which may prove dangerous all the way up the food chain. Ongoing studies will try to determine the patch's impact. ...


That's no patch -- that's a continent!

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Wed, Jan 28, 2009
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Recycling 'could be adding to global warming'
"It might be that the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away," he said. "We've got to urgently get a grip on how this material is flowing through the system; whether we're actually adding to or reducing the overall impact in terms of global warming potential in this process."... councils in England and Wales were dumping more than 200,000 tons of recyclable waste every year -- up to 10 per cent of all the glass, paper, plastic and other materials separated out by householders. Thousands of tons of recyclables are shipped to China because of insufficient capacity and demand in Britain. ...


Reduce. Reuse. Repurpose. Reward good behavior. Recycle what makes sense to recycle, especially if it hardly biodegrades.

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Wed, Jan 28, 2009
from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
BPA lingers in body, study finds
A study released today finds that bisphenol A, a chemical widely used to make plastic and suspected of causing cancer, stays in the body much longer than previously thought. The findings are significant because the longer the chemical lingers in the body, the greater chance it has of doing harm, scientists say. Researchers from the University of Rochester in New York also say the chemical may get into the body from sources such as plastic water pipes or dust from carbonless paper and not only from food containers that leach the chemical when heated. The study results, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, have sparked a flurry of concern and renewed calls for regulation... BPA, used to make baby bottles, dental sealants, food storage containers and thousands of other household products, was found in 93 percent of Americans tested. ...


It seems we are increasingly nothing more than receptacles for contaminants.

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Sun, Jan 25, 2009
from Calgary Herald (Canada):
More plastic than plankton in Pacific Ocean
At least 80 per cent of the plastic in the ocean originated from the land. Thousands of cargo containers fall overboard in stormy seas each year. In 2002, 33,000 blue-and-white Nike basketball shoes were spilled off the coast of Washington. Plastic in the ocean acts like sponges attracting neuro-toxins like mercury and pyrethroids, insecticides, carcinogens such as PCBs, DDT and PBDE (the backbone of flame retardants), and man-made hormones like progesterone and estrogen that at high levels induce both male and female reproductive parts on a single animal. Japanese scientists found [plastic nuggets] with concentrations of poisons listed above as high as one million times their concentrations in the water as free-floating substances. Each year, a million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic.... Currently, there is six times more plastic than plankton floating in the middle of the Pacific. ...


Twice as much I could handle, even three times, but gosh, six times as much plastic as plankton? Maybe I should start getting worried?

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Thu, Jan 22, 2009
from Guardian (UK):
New research on common chemical raises concerns
More doubts have been raised over the safety of a common chemical found in hard plastic food containers and bottles, and metal cans. High levels of the chemical, called bisphenol A, appear to be linked to heart problems and type 2 diabetes, a new study has found.... Researchers have now done a study looking at 1,455 American adults, to see whether high levels of BPA in people's bodies could be linked to health problems.... The results showed that people with higher concentrations of BPA in their urine were also more likely to have heart problems or type 2 diabetes. They also had a higher chance of having chemical changes in their body, which suggested their livers might not be working as well as they should. ...


It wasn't my youthful indiscretions? It was the plastic I grew up with?

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Forbes, via CBC:
Inside the world's superdumps
The largest garbage dump in the world is roughly twice the size of the continental U.S. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a continent-sized constellation of discarded shoes, bottles, bags, pacifiers, plastic wrappers, toothbrushes and every other type of trash imaginable, floating in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Hawaii and San Francisco.... Truckloads of printers, fax machines, hard drives and all kinds of defunct electronics arrive daily in Guiyu from warehouses in the port of Nanhai, where the imported waste comes ashore in sea-going containers. Roughly half these computers and electronic components are recycled; the rest are dumped. Nobody knows for sure, but evidence suggests most of the discarded components are dumped locally, despite the substantial risk that the waste, laden with toxic lead, mercury and cadmium, will contaminate local soil and water supplies.... Old ships are, more often than not, chock full of toxic chemicals, like insulation with asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls in hoses, foam insulation and paint. In addition, most ships contain huge quantities of heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. If ships are not properly dismantled, they contaminate the area where they are broken down. ...


Garbage? It's out of sight, out of mind, for me. Just toss it and forget it!

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Wed, Dec 10, 2008
from New York Times:
Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up
The economic downturn has decimated the market for recycled materials like cardboard, plastic, newspaper and metals. Across the country, this junk is accumulating by the ton in the yards and warehouses of recycling contractors, which are unable to find buyers or are unwilling to sell at rock-bottom prices. Ordinarily the material would be turned into products like car parts, book covers and boxes for electronics. But with the slump in the scrap market, a trickle is starting to head for landfills instead of a second life. "It's awful," said Briana Sternberg, education and outreach coordinator for Sedona Recycles, a nonprofit group in Arizona that recently stopped taking certain types of cardboard... "Either it goes to landfill or it begins to cost us money," Ms. Sternberg said. ...


There's a futures market here that is not paying attention.

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Thu, Nov 6, 2008
from Times Online (UK):
Recycling waste piles up as prices collapse
Thousands of tonnes of rubbish collected from household recycling bins may have to be stored in warehouses and former military bases to save them from being dumped after a collapse in prices. Collection companies and councils are running out of space to store paper, plastic bottles and steel cans because prices are so low that the materials cannot be shifted. Collections of mixed plastics, mixed paper and steel reached record levels in the summer but the "bottom fell out of the market" and they are now worthless. The plunge in prices was caused by a sudden fall in demand for recycled materials, especially from China, as manufacturers reduced their output in line with the global economc downturn. ...


Supply and demand may require that we demand that we recycle.

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Wed, Oct 29, 2008
from BBC:
Earth on course for eco 'crunch'
The planet is headed for an ecological "credit crunch", according to a report issued by conservation groups. The document contends that our demands on natural resources overreach what the Earth can sustain by almost a third. The Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network. It says that more than three quarters of the world's population lives in countries where consumption levels are outstripping environmental renewal. ...


Maybe it's time for about 2 billion of us to check out the exciting new planet Mars!

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Fri, Oct 24, 2008
from Inter Press Service:
Worst Forms of Pollution Killing Millions
Gold mining and recycling car batteries are two of the world's Top 10 most dangerous pollution problems, and the least known, according a new report. The health of hundreds of millions of people is affected and millions die because of preventable pollution problems like toxic waste, air pollution, ground and surface water contamination, metal smelting and processing, used car battery recycling and artisanal gold mining, the "Top Ten" report found....In previous years, the Blacksmith Institute has released a Top Ten list of toxic sites. The Institute continues to compile a detailed database with over 600 toxic sites and will release the world's first detailed global inventory in a couple of years. However, this year, rather than focus on places, it wants to bring specific pollution issues to world attention. And in particular highlight the health impacts -- a 2007 Cornell University study that 40 percent of all deaths worldwide are directly attributable to pollution, he said. ...


Great news for the hazmat and respirator industries!

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Fri, Oct 3, 2008
from USA Today:
Exposure to chemical may affect the genitals of baby boys.
Baby boys are more likely to have changes in their genitals — such as undescended testicles and smaller penises — if their mothers were exposed to high levels of a controversial chemical during pregnancy, a new study shows. Virtually everyone has been exposed to the chemicals, called phthalates, which are used in countless plastic products and are found in everything from drinking water to breast milk to household dust, according to the study, published in the current issue of Environmental Research. ...


Maybe phthalates are just our special little way of making the necessary reductions in population.

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Thu, Oct 2, 2008
from Environmental Research, via EurekAlert:
Six environmental research studies reveal critical health risks from plastic
Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and flame retardants (PBDEs) are strongly associated with adverse health effects on humans and laboratory animals. A special section in the October 2008 issue of Environmental Research, "A Plastic World," provides critical new research on environmental contaminants and adverse reproductive and behavioral effects. Plastic products contain "endocrine disrupting chemicals" that can block the production of the male sex hormone testosterone (phthalates used in PVC plastic), mimic the action of the sex hormone estrogen (bisphenol A or BPA used in polycarbonate plastic), and interfere with thyroid hormone (brominated flame retardants or PBDEs used in many types of plastic). ...


I'm thinking wax paper, glass bottles, and stainless steel containers may be growth industries.

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Mon, Sep 29, 2008
from McGill Daily (Canada):
Plastic poison resists regulation
It runs in the blood of almost every person in the world. The chemical is Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen that has been used in plastics for decades and interferes with fetal development. In mice it can change the structure of genitalia, reverse sexual differences in the brain, and increase susceptibility to prostate and breast cancers. And although it may cause heart disease and diabetes in humans, few seem to care.... Canada labelled BPA as toxic earlier this year, a designation that allows ministers to regulate its use. Baby bottles containing BPA were banned, and many drink companies took bottles containing BPA off the shelves. So far, no other country has followed suit. ...


O, Canada! With glowing hearts we see thee rise...

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Tue, Sep 16, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Waste: Oil price fuels expansion of plastic recycling
Plastics recycling in the UK is booming. The number of bottles collected by local authorities has shot up nearly 70 percent in the past year giving processing businesses increased security of supply. The industry has also been boosted by high oil prices, which have pushed up the value of plastic recyclate and virgin resin by about 10 percent in the past year. Virgin resin is now worth about Ł950 a tonne and recyclate only 5 percent less. ...


gooooOOOO PEAK OIL!

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Thu, Sep 11, 2008
from San Diego Reader:
Plague of the Urban Tumbleweeds
Put it this way: the average plastic bag has an estimated life of from 20 to 1000 years, depending on the bag and whom you talk to. So if William the Conqueror had buried his dog's doodoo in a plastic bag after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the bag'd be wasting away just about now. We don't need to be creating history like that. A plastic bag's useful lifespan is, what, 20 or 30 minutes? However long it takes to get from the supermarket to home. Thereafter, it launches into a second career filling our landfills and clogging our streams, storm drains, oceans, fishes' bellies. And from there, perhaps, to our bellies. How bad is the problem? Green think tanks have had a field day conjuring up original ways to express the horror. ...


But at least that doo-doo wouldn't be on William the Conqueror's dessicated boot.

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Fri, Aug 22, 2008
from Cape Cod Times:
Man-made chemicals tied to sick lobsters
A Woods Hole scientist believes he may have found a key culprit behind a mysterious disease linked to a dramatic drop in lobster populations from Buzzards Bay to Long Island. In research conducted this summer, Hans Laufer found that common man-made chemicals used in plastics, detergents and cosmetics had infiltrated the blood and tissue of lobsters, making them more vulnerable to a particularly virulent strain of shell disease." ...


Bet the buzzards don't mind.

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Fri, Aug 15, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
National Trust cuts plastic bags by 95 per cent with 5p charge
Its clampdown on the "plastic poison", blamed for harming wildlife and blighting the environment, follows similar successes at High Street stores and supermarkets across the country.... Thousands of customers have opted to either recycle old bags or invest in hessian and canvas, and the Government has warned of a mandatory charge for those retailers who do not get onboard the anti-waste bandwagon. The National Trust as part of a wider campaign to become more environmentally-friendly. ...


100 days, 95 percent reduction.
But what will we carry around to pick up dog poo?

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Sun, Jun 1, 2008
from Associated Press:
China kicks off drive to kick plastic bag habit
"China on Sunday became the latest country to declare war on plastic bags in a drive to save energy and protect the environment." ...


Now if we could get China's population of over 1.3 billion people to stop farting we'd really be making climate progress!

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Thu, May 15, 2008
from Vancouver West Ender:
It's time to put a lid on bottled water
the manufacturing process is a factor in global warming and depletion of energy resources; it takes close to 17 million barrels of oil to produce the 30 billion water bottles that U.S. citizens go through every year. Or, as the National Geographic website illustrates it: "Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That's about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle." It also takes more water to produce a bottle than the bottle itself will hold. Canadians consume more than two-billion litres of bottled water a year, and globally we consume about 190 billion litres a year. Unfortunately, most of those bottles -- more than 85 per cent, in fact -- get tossed into the trash rather than the recycling bin. ...


Yes, but which quarter-bottle of crude oil will taste better -- Deer Park, Fiji, AquaFina, or Evian?

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Thu, May 1, 2008
from CSIRO Australia, via ScienceDaily:
Boost For "Green Plastics" From Plants
Australian researchers are a step closer to turning plants into "biofactories" capable of producing oils which can be used to replace petrochemicals used to manufacture a range of products... "Using crops as biofactories has many advantages, beyond the replacement of dwindling petrochemical resources," says the leader of the crop development team, CSIRO's Dr Allan Green. "Global challenges such as population growth, climate change and the switch from non-renewable resources are opening up many more opportunities for bio-based products."... The CBI is a 12-year project which aims to add value to the Australian agricultural and chemical industries by developing technologies to produce novel industrial compounds from genetically modified oilseed crops. ...


Classic good news, bad news: good for Resource Depletion, possibly good for Climate Chaos, but probably more of the same bad, for Biology Breach: "Plants as machines with which to tinker, to more efficiently do our bidding!"

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Thu, Mar 27, 2008
from BBC (UK):
Plastic and toxic magnetism
Studies suggest billions of microscopic plastic fragments drifting underwater are concentrating pollutants like DDT.... "We know that plastics in the marine environment will accumulate and concentrate toxic chemicals from the surrounding seawater and you can get concentrations several thousand times greater than in the surrounding water on the surface of the plastic."... According to Dr Thompson, the plastic particles "act as magnets for poisons in the ocean".... In a typical sample of sand, one-quarter of the total weight may be composed of plastic particles.... "The thing that's most worrisome about the plastic is its tenaciousness, its durability. It's not going to go away in my lifetime or my children's lifetimes. ...


How can plastic be a magnet for toxins? We've heard of "animal magnetism," but
"synthetic magnetism"?

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Wed, Mar 26, 2008
from BBC (UK):
Plastic and the Midway albatross
The Midway Islands are home to some of the world's most valuable and endangered species and they all are at risk from choking, starving or drowning in the plastic drifting in the ocean. Nearly two million Laysan albatrosses live here and researchers have come to the staggering conclusion that every single one contains some quantity of plastic. About one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents. ...


The numbers of dead albatrosses hanging from humanity's necks
just keeps increasing.

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