Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feral Nurdles and Toxic Soup

Captain Charles Moore, sailor, sea captain, ocean pollution researcher, citizen activist, author of “Plastic Ocean,”  urges us to refuse to participate in the relentless toxic pollution of our oceans with plastics. He has worked tirelessly and passionately since 1997 to study the plastic debris choking our oceans and poisoning the watery depths that are an integral part of our earth’s biosystems.  He and his associates have found the oceans to be contaminated with plastic particles that create a toxic soup ingested by the largest and smallest creatures, with devastating consequences.

Feral Nurdles
Do you know what nurdles are? What could feral nurdles be? I had never heard of nurdles before reading “Plastic Ocean.” They are tiny, pre-production plastic pellets from which almost all plastic products are made, kind of like flour is to bread, nurdles are to plastic products, a main ingredient. Feral nurdles are nurdles that have escaped the factory production process or the transportation process through sloppy or non-existent handling processes and accidents such as spills from shipping or trucking collisions. Why does Captain Moore talk about nurdles, feral or otherwise? Because they are in our oceans, when they shouldn’t be, and because of their makeup, they attract toxins from the water they are in, drawing them and holding them, as well as releasing them. They are embedded in the silt, are saturated with harmful algal spores that cause choking algal blooms and kill sea life (as well as human life), and are ingested by marine life. And because they are plastic, they aren’t edible and they don’t biodegrade – ever. International Pellet Watch studies and reports on these preproduction plastic pellets. Nurdles – sounds like a Dr. Seuss term, but it turns out they are not amusing or clever, just deadly.

Toxic Soup
Captain Moore discusses the toxic soup that has taken over large parts of our world’s oceans because of plastic pollution. More alarming even than the visible floating plastic trash seen from the deck of a sailing ship are the tiny plastic pieces, many as old as 50 years, that swirl now in our oceans’ depths, the result of the breaking up of plastic garbage such as toys, packaging, utensils and shipping gear. These tiny plastic particles attract and adsorb toxic substances such as PCB’s, pesticides and BPA, persistent organic pollutants, as well as releasing the toxins during their watery journey, especially where they are aggregated in large quantities. I don’t want to swim anywhere near the toxic soup areas of our oceans, or eat any seafood exposed to toxic soup at any point in its lifecycle. The toxins in plastics and pesticides wreak havoc on the human body and physiology, adversely affecting normal development, reproductive processes and normal cell functions.  That expensive coastal beach vacation? Better research the water pollution in the area before paying good money to be exposed to a toxic environment.

The absolute lawlessness on the world’s oceans which has led to the high levels of pollutants and contaminants, with devastating effects on wildlife, is outrageous. Captain Moore explains in very easy terms in “Plastic Ocean” how environmental laws have failed to protect our oceans and marine wildlife. He also discusses at some length the history of plastics and the timelines of plastic pollution of our oceans. Shockingly and sadly, he outlines how marine wildlife ingest plastic debris in our oceans, mistaking it for similar looking natural food such as squid, fish eggs and plankton. He talks about how albatross parents feed plastic bottle caps to their hungry chicks, how whales and other large sea animals die agonizing deaths from guts filled and blocked with plastic bags and fishing gear like nets and lines, and how the tiniest sea creatures are inundated with inedible and toxic plastic bits.

What Can You Do?
What can you do right now to stop polluting our oceans? Read “Plastic Ocean,” copyright 2011. Check out and learn how to purge your lifestyle of polluting, toxic plastics. REFUSE to buy or use any more plastic. Buy locally as much as possible to reduce the amount of packaging you discard. Help Captain Moore and his colleagues and associates hold everyone accountable for their plastic footprint and protect our oceans, part of our world’s living biosystem.

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