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Scientists Concerned About 'Microplastics' In The Ocean

Update Date: Jul 11, 2014 08:25 AM EDT

Microplastics - microscopic particles of plastic debris - have become concerning because of their widespread presence in the oceans. These microplastics also possess potential physical and toxicological risks to organisms. 

In an article recently published scientists called for urgent action to "turn off the tap" and divert plastic waste away from the marine environment. 

"Our scientific understanding of this environmental problem is accelerating rapidly, with many new research efforts that go well beyond simply documenting the presence of plastic in the ocean," said Professor Kara Lavender Law, of Sea Education Association (Woods Hole, MA), in the press release. Prof Law also led a 2008 paper in Science describing widespread plastic contamination in the North Atlantic Ocean from more than 25 years of data collected by Sea Education Association faculty and undergraduate students during SEA Semester study abroad voyages.

Majority of studies of ocean microplastics focus on the debris that floats on the sea surface. However they ignore other potential collections of plastics. 

"Major unanswered questions remain about the amounts of microplastic debris that might be accumulating on the seafloor," said Professor Richard Thompson of Plymouth University (UK), in the press release, whose 2004 paper in Science first coined the term 'microplastics'. "We also know very little about where, geographically, are the largest inputs of plastic to the marine environment."

The article was published in the journal Science

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