How Concerned Should You Be About Pollution in the Depths of the Ocean?
By Atarah Bere
What do you imagine when you think of the ocean?
Are your toes in the warm sand being met by the cool saltwater?
Maybe you stay on the beach and build sandcastles with your little ones.
Or, maybe you’re a surfer.
We all benefit from the ocean. It supplies more than half of the world’s oxygen, and it absorbs carbon dioxide.
What we allow to happen to the ocean is essentially what we allow to happen to us. This is why it’s so important to stay updated on what’s happening with the oceans and with our planet.
Since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, we rarely see the haunting images of birds covered in oil. However, we’re still facing an international water crisis.
Oil spills are still plaguing our oceans. The bellies of beached whales are still filled with plastic.
Now, the rippling effects of pollution have reached the deepest part of the ocean. Human waste has traveled as deep as the Mariana Trench.
While 95% of the ocean remains unexplored, the Mariana Trench is believed to be the deepest part of the sea. It’s in the western Pacific Ocean, between Japan and Australia.
Only four people have been documented descending to its bottom. The journey below is a perilous one.
It’s dark, deep, mostly unexplored, and the pressures and temperatures are too extreme for humans to get to unassisted.
The pressure of the ocean at that depth is more than 1,000 times the standard pressure of the atmosphere at sea level. Marine equipment, such as specialized submarines, is the only possible way for humans to reach those depths.
Sea creatures, both known and still undiscovered, thrive in the extreme temperatures of the Mariana Trench. The goblin shark, anglerfish, and the barreleye are just some of the fascinating, deep-sea organisms that live in the ocean’s deepest point.
How are these animals able to survive those depths without being crushed? Their bodies are made up of mostly water, which cannot be crushed or constricted.
Undersea explorer, Victor Vescovo, recently reached the second deepest point of the ocean— the Challenger Deep at approximately 35,500 feet.
He spent a total of four hours at the bottom of the earth. During which, Vescovo mapped out new routes for future expeditions.
He was met by unusual marine life, such as the arrowtooth eel and the grenadier fish. While exploring this brand new world, he discovered something he was all too familiar with— a plastic bag and candy wrappers.
The deepest point of the earth is officially polluted.
How Does Waste End up in Our Oceans?
Littering is one of the main contributors to oceanic waste. The trash is carried by rainwater and wind and into sewers which can end up in lakes, rivers, and oceans.
Proper trash disposal reduces plastic pollution. While plastic doesn’t degrade, it does break down into tiny pieces called microplastics.
Landfills are another problem source. Plastic is blown away from these sites and often end up in our waters.
How Plastic Impacts the Sea and Us
Plastic is fundamentally toxic. Even BPA-free plastics contain other harmful chemicals.
During plastic production, lead, dioxins, vinyl chloride, and many other harmful chemicals are released into the environment. It not only pollutes the water, but the toxins impact the ocean water’s chemistry.
Marine life often mistakes microplastics for food. The toxic chemicals in plastic poisons marine life and eventually makes its way up the food chain— to other sea creatures and to us.
The ocean is also a life source for many birds. With plastic now being commonplace in the ocean and on the beach, seabirds make daily contact with it.
Many of them become entangled with the plastic they come in contact with. Plastic ingestion has become a major cause for seabird deaths.
Plastic is harmful for people, too. These are just some ways in which plastics impact human health.
● Reproductive issues
● Compromised immune system
● Various Cancers
● Cardiovascular disease
Unfortunately, global plastic pollution at sea isn’t the worst news.
We have bigger problems. Much bigger problems.
From Plastic To Nuclear Waste
The ocean has always been a dumping ground for nuclear, radioactive waste. Nuclear catastrophes such as Chernobyl and Fukushima have caused severe damage to the ocean, wildlife, and ecosystems.
Decades after both events, the after-effects remain unresolved. Recently, Japan’s environment minister, Yoshiaki Harada, suggested dumping over one million tonnes of radioactive waste into the already polluted Pacific Ocean. According to him, “The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it.”
Is it any wonder why dead marine life is washing up along coastlines, and marine life is testing high for radioactivity?
Now the Mariana Trench is a proposed disposal site for radioactive waste. If that proposition isn’t already absurd, the reasoning that follows is far more.
The Mariana Trench is being looked to for this in hopes that the subduction zones will push the waste deep into the earth’s core. This is planet destruction from the core out.
This concept and practice isn’t new. Nuclear waste-dumping has been in effect for over 70 years. They constantly seek out new disposal sites.
All of this despite the dumping of nuclear waste being banned worldwide in 1993.
Where Does the Nuclear Waste Come From?
Nuclear waste results from nuclear power plants. One form is excess fuels that generate the plant’s electricity. Another form is the leftover waste from facilitates involved in the production of nuclear weapons.
That’s the trouble with chemical warfare— everyone is impacted in some way. War-obsessed people produce weapons that the earth cannot sustain without serious repercussions.
The consequences of oceanic nuclear contamination over decades and centuries isn’t entirely known. What we do know is that radioactive materials damage living organisms on a cellular level.
Thirty years after Chernobyl, the largest nuclear disaster in history, there are animals with such high levels of radiation they are still deemed unsafe for human consumption.
Nearly a decade after Fukushima, radioactive fish testing well above the state limit are unsafe to eat. There is very little evidence that organisms are becoming anymore resistant to the effects of radiation.
What’s more is deep sea creatures that dwell in the Mariana Trench have been found with traces of bomb carbon from the 1940’s.
A global shift needs to take place in order to preserve the oceans, wildlife, and people. What condition will the state of the world be in for the next generation?
What Can I Do?
We’re glad you asked! There is so much you can do.
Being informed is the first step. Environmental hazards impact everyone’s way of life. Visit our blog each week and sign up for the email newsletter to stay informed!
Social media can be a powerful tool. Share information on environmental hazards with those close to you.
Even if you don’t use social media, sending a friend or family member an article like the one you’re reading can inspire them to raise awareness and make changes.
Shop with us
With the holidays right around the corner, buying an eco-friendly, reusable water bottle for someone on your gift list goes a long way. This is a great way to replace everyday plastic bottles.
Beach and river cleanup is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family. This is a great way to get fresh air, enjoy the company of loved ones, and truly make an environmental difference.
Rethink the way you shop. Instead of using plastic bags, you could invest in reusable bags made from cotton, canvas, or mesh. You could also suggest to your local grocery store that they replace plastic bags with cotton, burlap or paper bags.
The more plastic that’s produced, the more ends up in our oceans. The more we demand (through spending), the more companies will produce.
Money talks! When we get serious about addressing pollution, companies around the world will follow suit.
Author Bio: Atarah Bere is a mother, lover of nature, researcher, and writer.