Scientists in Japan and South Korea have found that polystyrene is slowly releasing toxic chemicals into the ocean environment, says The Asahi Shimbun.
"It has been believed that plastic products do not decompose at normal temperatures, but in fact they are gradually decomposing and releasing chemicals into the environment," said Katsuhiko Saido, a key member of the team. "We have demonstrated that marine pollution is real."
These chemicals, called styrene oligomers, could include endocrine-disrupting substances that may impact living organisms. In some studies, these endocrine disrupting substances have been shown to inhibit the development of genitalia and the brain.
The chemicals have been found in study sites throughout the world, but according to the article there are no human health safety standards for styrene oligomers.
Saida and co-workers said they detected styrene oligomers in seawater and beach sand at all 267 sampling sites, scattered over 34 areas in 21 countries and regions of the world, during the course of their 10-year study. Sand showed higher styrene oligomer levels than did seawater.
This is yet another example of the dangerous and alarming impacts created by plastic pollution. Plastic is the fastest-growing component of the waste stream and products like expanded polystyrene (eps) and single-use bags are among the most commonly found items during beach and coastal cleanups. It's clear that action must be taken to reduce our consumption of single-use packaging like expanded polystyrene.
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