As technology advances over the years, there has been an increasing amount of people using products that are more durable and convenient. Around 1,000,000 plastic bottles [are bought by humans] every minute [and] it is estimated that four trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually (Earth day 1). However, most products are made out of synthetically made material which are often not able to break down naturally and are not recycled. Only about 23% of bottles [made] are [actually] recycled, only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling, [and] Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags annually [which is] about 307 bags per person (Earth Day 1).
Therefore, discoveries of trash islands, consisted of mainly plastic, have been located in at least three major oceans. This increased amount of trash in our oceans has become a major problem in water pollution that concerns both sea life and humans safety that could be solved with simple solutions such as recycling, volunteering at beach clean ups with friends, or following safe disposal practices.
Trash islands are islands that are composed of discarded matter that have piled greatly from the mainland. They are transported through various ways such as sewers, animals, the environment, and of course, humans. These islands found all over the world could vary by size with the largest being located in the Pacific Ocean referred to as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is actually comprised of the Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California.
Overall, most patches consist of large piles of man made products largely consisted of plastic materials. With this continuation, researchers have estimated that, by the end of this century, …the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150 percent more acidic than they are now (Denchak 2). If not taken care of immediately, ocean waters would be more contaminated causing the ocean to become difficult to sanitate anything exposed to the waters, affecting both sea and human life.
Plastic has become a popular source of material to several areas around the world. They have been incorporated into our daily lives that one does not realise how harmful it can possibly be. For example, take something that is commonly found in households such as a water bottle. People rely on water bottles as a source of containment for liquids. However, people have developed a mindset that once the liquid is gone, the bottle is trash thus forgetting that the water bottle is made out of plastic that is recyclable. Many people have adapted to this mindset that once something is finished, they should automatically throw it away that they forget that there is such a thing as a recycling bin where the bottle should end up instead of the ocean. Americans alone purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S (Earth day 1). This would reveal just how much plastic has become such a necessity to many lives
The trash ending up in our oceans would then cause many sea life to be affected greatly towards a negative direction. At least 100,000 marine animals and 1,000,000 seabirds die every year simply because they have eaten something they shouldn’t have (Ocean Crusaders 1). According to the national Geographic, Albatrosses mistake plastic resin pellets for fish eggs and feed them to chicks, which die of starvation or ruptured organs (National Geographic 3). This would only show a few out of the several animal populations in the ocean that are affected, reflecting on how animals are being a main target from water pollution. Especially since animals do not have a voice in asking for help. They are only able to speak for themselves sadly through horrible incidents such as the death of a whale in Thailand. At first, the whale was holding onto life but unfortunately died even through the efforts of vets. However, once the whale was examined for the cause of death, marine officials discovered that the whale had …80 sopping wet, black plastic bags…pulled from the stomach of a [dead] whale (Raphelson 1).
The whale autopsy reflects how even the largest mammal on the planet is even affected by the trash being thrown into the ocean. Animals are only able to show need for support through such tragedies which humans could prevent by becoming aware of the need to stop the water pollution. If not taken into action, most animals would more than likely be affected and are more than likely have a higher chance of becoming extinct simply because of the mistakes of not picking up after oneself. In addition, the sea life found in the coral reefs are being affected because, more-acidic waters also contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs and make it harder for some types of fish to sense predators and for others to hunt prey (Denchak 3). Coral reefs are an essential habitat towards many animals which means if they are affected, a long chain of affects are implemented on the surrounding animals leading to another way of animal death. Thus, action towards water pollution is needed to be implemented now before it leads to animals not having a habitat for themselves or for its future generations because their homes are either being destroyed or they themselves are being eliminated.
Moreover, animals are not the only living creatures being affected but humans as well. Humans spends lots of time in the ocean as a getaway not realising how unhealthy the water has become. According to the National Survey on Recreation and Environment (NSRE), more than 143 million people in the U.S. [itself with], 61% of the population over the age 16, use surface waters to engage in non-motorized water sports revealing that several people come into contact with the ocean (Beachapedia 1).
Furthermore, it is stated by Raphelson that, “Every minute [there] is the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic going into the ocean…” (Raphelson 3). This means that humans are swimming in water that carries several particles of trash debris that are very unsanitary and are more than likely unhealthy for the body. Thus, it leads to human exposure to unknown or harmful chemicals that can lead many to become very ill with at least 1 billion people falling ill because of unsafe waters (NRDC 8). For instance, disease causing microorganisms, called pathogens, are associated with a range of enteric and non-enteric illnesses (Beachapedia 1). These illness would reside in the human intestines causing AGI or in other words acute gastrointestinal illness (Beachapedia 1) causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ache, and fever. This creates serious pain to the human body, preventing many from enjoying or doing everyday things (Beachapedia 1). It is even stated by the UNDESA that, Every year, more people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. In 2015 alone, water pollution caused 1.8 million deaths according to the study from The Lancet (NRDC 8).
Hence, showing how critical water pollution has become that human lives are now beginning to be greatly affected. However, ocean water is not only polluted through water or by land but also through airborne sources. An example would be Coal-fired power plants [or] chlorine factories [that] release mercury into the air [that would] eventually settle into the ocean (Thank You Ocean 6). This mercury being released into the environment is a dangerous toxin which then enters the systems of marine organisms and bioaccumulates, or increases, as larger fish eat smaller fish contaminated with mercury (NRDC 7). Consequently, this would lead to the consumption of contaminated fish which would greatly affect humans because mercury can cause serious damage to the brain and nervous system (NRDC 7). Furthermore, edible fish such as tuna and swordfish, often have the highest [concentrations] of mercury, indicating that most humans are presently becoming contaminated through this food source without much knowledge of the negative effects it may have on their bodies (NPR 2). For this reason, doctors recommend limiting the consumption of some types of fish and shellfish in order to limit the amount of mercury consumed into one’s body. All inclusive, there is a need to take immediate action in order to prevent any more damage to human health not only for the present generation but for the health for generations to come. Their future greatly depends on the actions we implement now which should be to create a more sanitary ocean for them to be in, eat, and enjoy.
In fact, many people worldwide have begun to notice the importance of protecting our oceans from water pollution. California alone has begun to protect one of its important assets to the state with its coastlines having beach visitors spend over 10 billion dollars each year (Thank You Ocean 8) . California began to monitor and regulate the ocean through a series of volunteer programs that helps clean up the coastlines beaches. It is estimated that around 100 million dollars has been invested in California alone to fund local projects that reduce the amount of trash on the coastlines (Thank You Ocean 8).
In addition, California has passed a bill that eliminates the use of straws helping prevent straws from entering the ocean especially since plastic is of the major items commonly found in the ocean. Although such action is taken, many believe it’s unnecessary to ban or prohibit many items or actions implied on the people. This situation could be viewed with the controversy of banning straws in California. It has been stated that if people violated this banned item, there might be federal consequences such as jail time for a waitress or bartender serving someone a straw (San Francisco Chronicle 1). Many view this as unnecessary and cruel punishment for someone who is simply doing their job. Many even note that California should focus more on their ways of handling pollution that is presently in front of them such as the piles of trash that are on sidewalks and roads instead of a little straw.
However, focusing on the smaller problems would help prevent the bigger problems of water pollution. Straws being a product made out of plastic, is one of the main contributors to the present pollution that is at stake. Straws are commonly found in the ocean and in several cases found as a cause of damage towards sea life. An example of this would be of a sea turtle that had a four inch plastic straw stuck completely in his nostril. Two researchers tried to extract the straw only causing a stream of blood to flow out of its nostril (Plastic Pollution Coalition 2). This shows how many people do not view a straw as a harmful device when in reality the sraw, or basically anything thrown into the ocean, is a threat to sea life no matter the size. Even though it may seem like strict laws, these steps are needed to protect our oceans from danger because many do not take the problem seriously until reminded through the law thus not hurting any living creature by preventing any damage from human innovations.
Furthermore, in order to maintain stability of the chemicals being put into the ocean, factories or any source that releases large amounts of pollution should make sure that their waste is being thrown away correctly. This would prevent the ocean from attaining any form of unhealthy chemical to worsen the safety and health of the ocean.
Also, since the air could also be a factor towards water pollution, implementing renewable energy sources in companies, especially large ones, in order to obtain their energy in a more eco friendly way rather than in a manner that pollutes the air and water. For example, solar energy, wind turbines and hydro power are all pollution free methods of obtaining power from the earth’s natural resources without harming the earth’s existing natural resources to obtain this energy (Whale Facts 5). In addition, people making the switch between harmful chemicals to more eco-friendly chemicals that are little to no harm when they come in contact with water. Additionally, the toxic fumes that can be spread through heavy rainfall into several water systems, should be filtered, rerouted and cleaned before making their way to the atmosphere (Whale Facts 6).
People can help contribute with lessening water pollution through simple everyday tasks. For example, Keep your car well maintained and immediately service it if you notice any oil leaking from the car or Purchase environmentally friendly cleaning products that do not harm the land if they happen to be flushed or emptied into a drain (Whale Facts 7). Also, not letting water run when not in use which would help conserve water that is already safe to being misused. Additionally, recycling cans, bottles, paper, or even other items such as clothes because it would allow the items to either be used once again or to be created into new resources instead of floating trash in the ocean. All together, such changes or solutions can help restore the ocean’s safety and sanitation from water pollution for all living creatures on the sea, air, and of course humans.
In conclusion, by becoming more aware of the consequences water pollution has towards life in both sea and land, life can become more safe and prosperous for future years to come. There are several solutions being explored worldwide in order to stop or prevent the water pollution from spreading. Most importantly, there are various simple ways all the people could help to contribute towards helping the ocean become much cleaner such as the examples mentioned because if measures are not taken as soon as possible, many animals, plants, and humans would suffer many consequences such as illness as unfortunately for plants and animals, the brink of extinction.
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