Photo: Luca Babini
As plastic breaks down in the ocean, it gets back into our food chain—not only in the fish we eat, but also in meat. Few people know it, but cattle feed is made from fish that have fed off the toxic particles of plastic found in the ocean. A study of swordfish found that one in three male swordfish lay female eggs due to plastic-derived toxins in the oceans. This imbalance may seem small, but it affects every part of the food chain, creating indeterminable damage to the natural world and human beings alike.
As a woman, I recently became acutely aware of plastics in cosmetics. Enjoying a good scrub in the shower one morning, I discovered that the exfoliating property in my shower gel was plastic. Crazy, I was scrubbing my skin with plastic particles. More importantly, these tiny plastic particles were being washed down the drain and eventually into the ocean, a topic so close to my heart. I was unconsciously adding to the problem of marine debris every morning when I took a shower.
In the English magazine Huck, Ruth Carruthers wrote: "On average, women in the western world use approximately 200 man-made chemicals in their skincare routine every day. Chemicals such as parabens, sodium laureth sulfate, and phthalates are found in most body care products." Scientific studies have linked these chemicals to skin disorders and hormone disruption. These toxins wash down our drains, end up in the ocean, are eaten by fish and work their way up the food chain onto our dinner plates.
So what is this toxicity in our food chain doing to our health and the health of our children? The scary thing about plastic is that even though we have the feeling that plastic is essential to modern life—it's used in practically every action that we make—we know so little about its potential for damage.
Wherever we live, we need to feel a connection to the oceans. With little effort, we can all start doing something to help. For the duration of the Plastiki expedition and beyond, I urge you to remember your reusable water bottle. This alone will help to reduce the 200 billion liters of bottled water consumed each year!
The Plastiki, a transoceanic sailboat made of 12,500 recycled plastic bottles, is on an expedition across the Pacific Ocean, lead by British explorer David de Rothschild. Learn more at ThePlastiki.org and make a Plastiki pledge at MyPlastiki.com.
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Plastiki expedition leader David de Rothschild takes on the plastic clogging our oceans
Learn more about the Plastiki's mission