By-Muzamil arif, Sumiya Banoo, Umah E Roman
Plastic pollution is nothing but collection of several types of man-made plastic materials on land, as well as in water bodies where they create problems for wildlife and their habitats as well as for human populations. Plastic pollution is the most widespread problem affecting the marine environment. It also threatens ocean health, food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change. Plastic pollution is a collection of plastic waste like plastic bottles, bags, etc. that adversely affect the environment. Nowadays, plastic is everywhere, and the amount of plastic we generate daily
by using it for our comfort is enhancing rapidly. No one realises how harmful it is. It is very important to understand how plastic harms nature, human beings, and other creatures on earth. We use plastic in various ways. It is used in building polythene bags, utensils, and many other things. Slowly it gets contaminated and leads to hazardous effects. Plastic pollution is caused by the accumulation of large amounts of plastic waste in the environment. Plastic is a non-biodegradable material, it does not decompose in water or soil and its effect becomes even more harmful when burned. It is present in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, due to which it generates air, water and land pollution. Along with this, it is also very harmful for humans, animals and plants, due to plastic pollution, many animals and sea creatures die every year.
As of 2018, about 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide each year. From the 1950s up to 2018, an estimated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced worldwide, of which an estimated 9% has been recycled and another 12% has been incinerated. This large amount of plastic waste enters the environment, with studies suggesting that the bodies of 90% of seabirds contain plastic debris.
Over 260 species, including invertebrates, have been reported to have either ingested plastic or become entangled in the plastic. When a species gets entangled, its movement is seriously reduced, therefore making it very difficult to find food. Being entangled usually results in death or severe lacerations and ulcers. It has been estimated that over 400,000 marine mammals perish annually due to plastic pollution in oceans. In 2004, it was estimated that seagulls in the North Sea had an average of thirty pieces of plastic in their stomachs.
IMPACT OF PLASTIC POLLUTION:-Plastic Pollution is affecting the whole earth, including mankind, wildlife, and aquatic life. It is spreading like a disease which has no cure. We all must realize the harmful impact it has on our lives so as to avert it as soon as possible.
Throwing of plastics in open space creates unhealthy conditions, as it develops insects and mosquitoes that cause harmful diseases.Plastics stays in the soil for years and affects soil fertility and its quality. Plastic leftovers enter the drainage system and block the drains, whichcause water-logging. The plastic manufacturing industry throws waste directly into the water bodies, thus affecting water.Burning of plastic leads to the release of poisonous chemicals. Thus leading to air pollution.Natural disasters such as floods are also one of the causes of plastic pollution.Plastic contains some chemicals that can affect the growth of crops by making it difficult for the process of photosynthesis to take place in agricultural fields.
IMPACT OF PLASTIC POLLUTION ON WILDLIFE:- Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics. Nearly every species of seabird eats plastics.Plastics have been consumed by land-based animals, including elephants, hyenas, zebras, tigers, camels, cattle, and other large mammals, in some cases causing death.The real impact of plastic bag litter is felt on wildlife both in the marine environment and in rural areas.Plastic is not the best 'Fit' for wild animal.We now know that plastic can be very harmful to entire ecosystems; but let’s dig a little deeper to find out how plastics impact wild animals in particular. Plastic, the pesky substance that it is, manages to sneak into and damage several bodily functions of animals. Hungry animals usually smell food in plastic containers and bags. However, their curiosity and desire for food often cause them to get their heads, feet or wings trapped in the plastic. Plastic covered head against the ground or a nearby tree makes for viral content, it also means that animal may suffer from overheating, suffocation, dehydration, starvation, and eventually death. In the case where the limbs of animals are trapped, it makes them less agile and more vulnerable to predators, competitors, and environmental stress.If they manage to eat the plastic, it can also cause intestinal blockages and can become fatal for that animal. Plastic bags, once ingested, cannot be digested or passed by an animal so it stays in the gut. Plastic in an animal’s gut can prevent food digestion and can lead to a very slow and painful death.“The really sad thing about this is that they’re eating plastic thinking it’s food,” says, “Imagine you ate lunch and then just felt weak and lethargic and hungry all day. That would be very confusing.”This phenomenon is especially problematic because of how widespread it is. People often dump a lot of plastic near or in patches of unprotected wild land, which means that the probability of wild animals encountering plastic increases exponentially. Thus, the animals will be in imminent danger of either being trapped in, inconvenienced by or accidentally consuming this toxic material.
IMPACT OF PLASTIC POLLUTION ON HUMAN LIFE:- Plastics contain many different types of chemicals, depending on the type of plastic. The addition of chemicals is the main reason why these plastics have become so multipurpose, however this has problems associated with it. Some of the chemicals used in plastic production have the potential to be absorbed by human beings through skin absorption. A lot is unknown on how severely humans are physically affected by these chemicals. Some of the chemicals used in plastic production can cause dermatitis upon contact with human skin. In many plastics, these toxic chemicals are only used in trace amounts, but significant testing is often required to ensure that the toxic elements are contained within the plastic by inert material or polymer. Plastic pollution can also affect humans in which it may create an eyesore that interferes with enjoyment of the natural environment.The waste generated by plastic is also polluting our rivers and other sources of drinking water. The quality of our drinking water is deteriorating day by day due to plastic pollution, which is causing many diseases due to drinking this water.
plastic is dangerous for humans. Direct toxicity from plastics comes from lead, cadmium, and mercury. These toxins have also been found in many fish in the ocean, which is very dangerous for humans. Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) contained in some plastics, is a toxic carcinogen. Other toxins in plastics are directly linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues.The other toxins like BPA or health-bisphenol-A are found in plastic bottles and food packaging materials. When the polymer chains of BPA break down and enter the human body through contaminated water or fish, it could lead to some fatal damage to our body. BPA can decrease thyroid hormone receptor which can lead to hypothyroidism.Apart from these severe effects, humans can also develop some health conditions because of plastic. Here are some adverse health effects caused by plastic i:e Asthma, Pulmonary cancer due to inhalation of poisonous gases, Liver damage, Nerve and brain damage, Kidney diseases.
IMPACT OF PLASTIC POLLUTION ON MARINE LIFE: With the changing patterns of consumption and resource utilisation , lifestyles and living standards have reached a height where things have changed drastically. This change has its boons and banes. When it comes to banes it has brought with it the deteriorating tendencies in the forms of various kinds of pollutions, including ; Air pollution, Water pollution , generation of harmful chemicals etc. Among many such issues Plastic pollution is the one. Plastics are widely used because of their durability and strength.But due to their persistence and non-degrading nature they have become a big monster ever created by man. On the basis of size Plastics are divided as Macroplastics and Microplastics. Microplastics are the product of Plastic pollution. They are generally less than five millimetres ,and above this are the Macroplastics. They are amply spread in the marine ecosystems. They pose many dangers to marine biodiversity because whatever be the source of their generation , they are carried away by rivers, streams and flood waters to seas and oceans. Seas and oceans are their final destination where they remain in the form of debris and contaminate water quality on one hand and marine biodiversity on the other hand.Billions of pounds of plastics are found in swirling convergences that make up about 40% of world’s ocean surfaces. At current rates plastic is expected to outweight all the fish in the sea by 2050. Fish in the North Pacific ingest 12,000 to 25,000 tonns of plastic each year which can cause intestinal injury and death and transfers the plastic up the food chain to bigger fish, marine mammals and human sea food eaters. A recent found that a quarter of fish at markets in California contained plastic in their guts, mostly in the form of plastic microfibers.
Sea turtles can mistake floating plastic garbage as food. They can choke, sustain internal injury and die or starve by thinking they are full from eating plastic. Tragically, research indicates that half of sea turtuls world wide have ingested plastic. New studies find that plastic pollution is so pervasive on many beaches that it is affecting their reproduction. Hundreds and thousands of sea birds ingest plastic every year. Plastic ingestion reduces the storage volume of stomach, causing starvation. It is estimated that 60% of all sea bird species have eatenpieces of plastic, with that number predicted to increase to 99% by 2050. Dead sea birds are often found with stomachs full of plastics, reflecting how the amount of garbage in our oceans has rapidly increased. In the past 40 years. Marine mammals ingest and get tangle up in plastics. Large amounts of plastic debris have been found in the habitat of critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals, including in areas that serve as pup nurseries. Entanglement of plastics have also lead to several injuries in Steller sea lion.
Marine pollution may also interrupts with the shell formation process of coral reefs and other shelled animals like Hermit crab , sea anemone etc. Thus the animals which shelter themselves in the shell of these organisms get homeless and vulnerable to attack by their predators. Many efforts have been made to resolve such big problems of plastic pollution. The International Marine Pollution Act , 1972 and its protocol of 1996 , IMO accountable for execution of International Convention for the prevention of pollution from ships( IMO)have recognised the issue of plastic contamination and Marine waste. The MARPOL agreement to this convention shall prohibit the dumping of plastics by ships in both economic zones and waters outside domestic jurisdiction ( Haward 2018). India is committed to eliminate single use plastics completely by 2022.
Note: the article written by Muzamil Arif, Sumiya Banoo, Umah E Roman, students of Govt Degree College Bhaderwah and ‘The Northern Herald’ don’t take responsibility of content.