Sea Pollution and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Sea Pollution and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Water is the most abused and wasted natural resource. Clean water is very precious. There are about 1 billion or more people who do not have access to clean drinking water in the world today. We must be very careful with our water and take the proper steps necessary to conserve it. Pollution is the introduction of harmful substances, particularly a contaminant or toxin, which produces some kind of harmful impact on the environment or living organisms. When we talk about pollution, 3 types of pollution usually come to mind: air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution.
There are numerous types of water pollution and pollutants that contaminate it. I would like to focus specifically on sea pollution by using the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as an example. Sea pollution is a major problem. What people may not realize is that sea pollution affects not only the seas and oceans, but it also affects the entire earth. While marine plants and animals are the most immediate victims of sea pollution, animals higher up the food chain that feed on marine life, including humans, are not spared.
Once the toxins are concentrated in the tissue of one animal they can magnify across the food chain very similar to the pesticide DDT. In addition, toxic substances are washed up shores and destroy beaches. Toxic substances that get washed upstream destroy valuable drinking water. There are three major types of pollution in the sea: dumping of waste sewage, dumping of refuse and toxic industrial waste, and oil spills. Sewage dumping is the dumping of untreated or under-treated sewage into the seas and oceans. According to Waterencyclopedia. com, about 80% of urban sewage released into the Mediterranean Sea is untreated.
This is because there are still many cities around the world that have ineffective, little or no sewage treatment. Sewage discharged from ships and other large vessels sailing the seas also contribute. Human sewage largely consists of excrement from toilet flushing, and wastewater from bathing, laundry, dishwashing and kitchen garbage disposals. The discharge of sewage sludge into the sea has devastating effects on the marine environment. Firstly, this sewage serves as food for algae and bacteria, which flourish in the presence of the sewage food.
These organisms then overpopulate the seas and oceans, use up most of the dissolved oxygen naturally found in water, and upset the ecological balance in the water bodies. The shortage of oxygen in the water makes it difficult for other organisms in the water to survive. The overgrown population of bacteria and algae is basically strangling the other marine organisms. In serious cases, dead zones may be formed in the seas or oceans, for example, the Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea, where no marine life could be supported. Sewage dumping also introduces harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that spread water-born diseases (i. e. cholera, typhoid fever and salmonellas) into our water. In a report by the World Health Organization in 2008 titled “Safer Water, Better Health”, it is estimated that 1. 4 million children die in a year as a result of diarrhea from drinking unsafe water or inadequate sanitation. Refuse and toxic waste dumping is another one of the major 3 types of pollution in the sea. Rubbish dumping in the ocean was actually an accepted practice for centuries until the 1970’s! Almost any type of rubbish generated on land, including household waste, industrial chemical waste, or even radioactive waste, had a chance of making its way to the ocean.
While the dumping of toxic waste into the ocean is being restricted today, the ocean is still suffering from the impact of past dumping practices. The garbage that ends up in the seas are swept by oceanic currents and winds into what are known as oceanic gyres. A gyre is a large system of rotating ocean currents, often accompanied by large winds. The gyre is actually a vortex, or a spinning flow of oceanic waters around an epicenter. The rotating flow of water within the gyre draws in garbage from the surrounding waters and prevents the garbage debris from leaving the vortex.
At the same time, the surface water currents, driven by winds in the gyre, gradually moves the suspended or floating debris toward the relatively low-energy center of the gyre. It is at this epicenter that the various garbage patches are found. There are 5 main gyres in our oceans. For example, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre, while the North Atlantic Garbage-Patch is found in the North Atlantic Gyre and the Indian Ocean Garbage-Patch is found in the Indian Ocean Gyre.
Today, the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is known as the world’s largest rubbish dump in the ocean. The patch is found to contain extremely high levels of pelagic (near the water’s surface) plastic debris, chemical sludge, and other debris such as Styrofoam, plastic bags, toothbrushes, lighters, fishing nets, balloons, you name it. But unlike the garbage dumps on land, the garbage debris in these oceanic patches does not form a solid, compact or continuous garbage pile.
Instead, the debris are diffused over large distances of water surface, as well as suspended throughout the water columns (with higher concentrations in the upper column). As described by Michael J. Moore, racing boat captain and oceanographer who “discovered” the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the patch is like a “plastic soup”. According to Moore, garbage coming from Asia would take about one year to reach the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, while garbage from the United States would take several years. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was actually predicted in a 1988 paper published by the U. S.