From our early years in school, our science teachers have taught us that two thirds or roughly 70% of the surface of the Earth is covered by water. And yet it is probably the most neglected element in the environment. The oceans are home to a diverse number of wildlife and an important source of food for most of the inhabitants of the earth, including humans. From this fact alone, the importance of the ocean can’t be more emphasized. Besides being a source of food, the ocean also provides us with various medicines through the abundance of life that it produces.
Around 500 types of sea species have potentially cancer curing chemicals (WWF fact sheet, n. d). Marine Pollution In layman’s terms, marine pollution is simply the destruction of the quality of water through contamination, but in scientific terms, marine pollution is the “distortion of marine environment health” (Sinha, 1998). Anything that we dump to a body of water that is not supposed to be there is marine pollution. The question whether the act of dumping is intentional or not is irrelevant because the intention does not reduce the damage done to the body of water.
It has been once thought that the ocean is so vast that it would be able to dilute all the wastes that are put in it. Of course we know now that this is not true. We have polluted the oceans so much, and in a lot of different ways, that we are now feeling the effects of our neglect. We have to stop marine pollution now if we, and the generations after us are to enjoy our world’s number one resource. Sources of Pollution: Causes, Effects, and Solutions Oil Pollution – according to the National Research Council, the oceans suffer more than it seems in the news.
Occasionally, major oil spills reach our television screens but so much more is dumped into the ocean every year and they are not even because of accidents (NRC, 1985). Major oil spills are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to oil polluting the ocean. Oil spills are just more visual, because they are televised most (or some) of the time, but oil spills from ships or platforms are just some of the reasons on how oil can be dumped into the ocean. The following graph shows that major oil spills is second to the least source of the total oil that reaches the oceans.
Source: Ocean Planet. Oil Pollution. The part that shows the most contribution to oil pollution is known as the run-off effect. It is the combination of all the oil that is spilled in land that seeps through the soil and find its way to the ocean. Run-off pollution is very harmful to the environment and our health. Not only does it damage the oceans but it also damages the smaller bodies of water that the oil used to reach the ocean. The oil can disrupt marine life, and ultimately destroy it (MarineBio, n. d.
) Lots of marine animals are killed due to oil spills because they come in direct contact with the oil, hindering their movement, and therefore their chances of survival, not to mention that the oil is toxic. Despite the decreasing popularity of oil, it would be always there as long as humans can extract them from the earth, so we can’t stop collecting them. What we can do, is to pass laws that would make present laws on the oil production business stricter, and therefore safer. But as mentioned, direct oil spills on the ocean are the least of our worries.
We must properly dispose the oils that we use in land because it contributes the most in mixing that oil with our waters. Toxic Chemicals – oil is just one of the pollutants that contribute to the destruction of marine environmental health. There are a number of toxic chemicals out there that are spilled in to the ocean. These chemicals don’t just contaminate the water, the creatures of the sea are also contaminated and create a domino effect on all those that belong to its food chain. We should be concerned about these toxic chemicals because we are part of that food chain (assuming that most people eat fish).
“…many pollutants accumulate in marine organisms, humans are exposed to pollutants when they consume food from polluted areas. ” Some studies have shown that humans that eat a lot of seafood are prone to chemicals such as dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) and a number of heavy metals (Dewailly et al. 1999). Like oil, toxic chemicals also find their way to the ocean due to the run-off effect, although sometimes accidents at sea can cause direct spillage of toxic chemicals into the ocean. These are chemicals being transported by ships and somehow, by whatever reason, end up where it should not be.
These chemicals destroy the environment much like how oil does, the only difference is some toxic chemicals are invisible. Seemingly harmless seafood products can be contaminated by these chemicals and be transmitted to our body if we consume them. One of these toxic chemicals is a marine antifouling paint ingredient called tributylin. Trubutylin is known to have some bad effects on gastropods and molluscs (Matthiessen and Law 2002). Perhaps the best way reduce chemical spills is to minimize our use of these toxic chemicals. They are toxic anyway ,so we might as well not use them.
Use of alternative products in place of these chemicals might be possible, safer, and more environment friendly products. Anything that is harmful to the environment should be phased out or at least be used in moderation. The effects of these chemicals to the environment and our health are far too great for us to continue to use them. Other Pollutants – apart from oil and toxic chemicals, there are other toxins that add up to marine pollution. Some of these are sewage, plastic, and dredged materials. Most sewage still find their way to the ocean, sewage contain nitrogen and phosphorus.
Nitrogen and phosphorus is what some toxic algae thrives on. These toxic algae consume the oxygen of an affected area making it a dead zone. One incident happened just a few years ago and is mentioned in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Fact sheet for marine pollution: A few years ago a massive slick of poisonous algae spread through the channels, which separate the coasts of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. The slime affected 200km of coastline, killed millions of fish and forced tourist beaches to close (WWF, n. d). Plastic is the most common trash found on the ocean.
They are non-biodegradable materials, they take an eternity of years to be broken down by nature. While at their current un-broken state, plastics can be mistaken by marine creatures for food which is most of the time lethal to them. If animals aren’t killed by eating them mistakenly, they are caught by it, strangling them until they drown, or reduce their capacity to move, making them prone to attack from predators. Finally, dredged materials are things that are removed because of construction purposes. Dredged materials may contain harmful chemicals that are dumped into the ocean and cause sediments to form on coral reefs (WWF n.
d) Conclusion These are just some of the reasons why we should stop polluting our oceans and our environment in general. Our oceans surround us, any ill effects that it experience would surely be felt by the inhabitants of the earth. The effects that are caused by marine pollution can be so devastating that it can alter our way of life as we know it. Food supplies, possible medicines, and the overall health of the planet is based on the health of the oceans. We must do everything we can in order to preserve it, for our own, and our children’s sake.
World Wildlife Foundation. (n. d). Fact Sheet no. 30: Marine Pollution. November 7, 2008. from: http://www. wwf. org. hk/eng/pdf/references/factsheets/factsheet30. PDF Sinha, P. C. (1998). Marine Polution. November 7, 2008. from: http://books. google. com. ph/books? id=XcWGR-w4-HkC&pg=PA19&lpg=PA19&dq=Marine+Pollution+Arguments&source=bl&ots=fnpHZgsWKI&sig=WiDQH-ietk7MZPJviDXhjEC6tkc&hl=tl&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPP1,M1 – National Research Council. 1985. Oil in the sea. National Academy Press, Washington D. C. November 7, 2008. from: http://seawifs. gsfc. nasa.gov/ocean_planet_scripts/footnote. pl? per1+1 Marine Bio. org (n. d).
Ocean Dumping Grounds. November 7, 2008. From: http://marinebio. org/Oceans/OceanDumping. asp Dewailly E, Mulvad G, Pedersen HS, Ayotte P. , Demers A, Weber JP, et al. 1999. from Concentration of organochlorines in human brain, liver, and adipose tissue autopsy samples Greenland. Environment Health Perspective 107:823-828. Matthiessen P, Law RJ. 2002. Contaminants and their effects on estuarine and coastal organisms in the United Kingdom in the late twentieth century. Environment Pollution 120:739-747.