A Japan-based team, led by researcher Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist with the College of Pharmacy at Nihon University in Japan, released findings of its study of the effects of plastics in the oceans this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C.
The study is the first to definitively prove that plastics are leaching chemicals such as Bisphenol A into the oceans, endangering aquatic life and overall environmental health. The team is pushing for plastic to be considered as a source of chemical pollutants in the ocean.
All water samples taken from various sites around the world showed a presence of polystyrene, the primary component in Styrofoam, plastic cutlery, and DVD cases. The team showed that polystyrene begins to degrade at 30 degrees Celsius. Polystyrene is heavier than water, which ensures that the chemicals resulting from its decomposition are present throughout the depths of the ocean and not just at the surface.
More on the team’s findings on the breakdown of plastics in our oceans at National Geographic.