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Protecting the 'Lungs of Our Planet'

By Our Cleaner Planet

Chemicals and microplastics are taking a dramatic toll on our oceans, the food chain and the environment as a whole. Reversing the negative impacts of these pollutants is at the heart of Our Cleaner Planet’s mission. A video by the Goes Foundation (Global Oceanic Environmental Survey) called, “How to Save Our Planet” illustrates these impacts.

Microplastics in the oceans form coatings (biofilms) that attract, capture and concentrate biotoxins that are poisonous to living organisms. The video highlights this problem, identifying chemicals like oxybenzone, PCBs and Methyl Mercury as some of the toxins that microplastic biofilms accumulate.

A key organism that is endangered by these toxins is plankton. Because plankton eat the plastics found in the ocean, the dangerous chemicals are entering the plankton. Over the last 50 years, 50 percent of plankton in the ocean have been killed, and that number is continuing to grow. Given they are literally out of sight (incredibly small) and out of mind (out in the ocean), we can easily be excused for not caring about their survival.

Many of us do care, however, about climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is driving climate change. The more CO2 we create, the more climate problems we create. The ocean absorbs a huge amount of this carbon. That CO2 would be released back into the atmosphere were it not for the plankton. They are the planet’s main instrument for CO2 absorption. The tiny plankton turn CO2 into shells made of calcium carbonate. When they die, their shells sink to the deep ocean, trapping (sequestering) the harmful carbon dioxide - eliminating more carbon from the atmosphere than the entire Amazon rainforest.

Unfortunately, as the microplastic-concentrated toxins kill the plankton, those plankton are not available to trap and remove the CO2, causing the oceans to gradually turn more and more acidic. This acid is dissolving the shells of the remaining plankton, slowing the sequestering process, and worsening the process of climate change.

The toxins are also negatively affecting our food chain, which could lead to a variety of health defects. Research has confirmed that these toxins can impact cardiopulmonary responses, and cause alterations of endogenous metabolites, genotoxicity, inflammatory responses, oxidative stress, effects on nutrient absorption, gut microflora, and reproduction. When tiny plankton eat plastics, they also ingest the toxins. Larger creatures and fish eat the plankton. And ultimately, we eat the fish, also consuming those toxins.

It's not too late to reverse the impact we've had on the ocean. Watch the GOES Foundation’s video (see within this post) to find out more about the side effects toxins and microplastics are having on our planet.

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