School Email Exchange

What chemical properties contained in plastic are harmful to the ocean ecosystem?

Posted on November 05 2012

Question submitted by Trinity-Pawling School

One of the reasons we are doing this research in the Pacific is to find out just what you are asking.  The answers will come after scientists in shore labs have time to do their research on the samples we’ve collected, and even then their research may lead to more questions than answers.  This kind of early, baseline research takes time.

We do know some potentially harmful chemicals are added to different types of plastic.  BPA has been in the news lately as a harmful chemical found in some baby bottles and plastic liners in cans that could leach out into our food.  Some companies are now manufacturing those items and advertising them as BPA free.   Additives, such as plasticizers, colorants, flame retardants, stabilizers, and anti-degradation agents are often added to plastics to give them the properties that make them so useful.  Many of these chemicals are toxic, but manufacturers are not required to disclose the additives used in their products.  There has been very little research into the effects these chemicals might have on marine organisms, although studies have been conducted on some of these chemicals to investigate their effects on animals or humans.