On World Ocean Day on the 8th of June, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) revealed new evidence regarding the impact of plastic pollution, this time on cetaceans in the Mediterranean Sea..Over the last 17 years, the organization has analyzed biopsies of almost 100 marine mammals (3 whale species) living in the PÃ©lagos Sanctuary, the largest marine protected area in the Mediterranean located between Italy, France and the Island of Sardinia. The results of this research showed high contamination of cetaceans by phthalates, a component of plastics commonly found in packaging, shower curtains, cables, varnishes, medicines, paints but also in cosmetics like nail polishes and perfumes. The mean concentration of DEHP (the most toxic phthalate) found in dry whale tissue was 1,060 Î¼g/kg, when a concentration of 300 Î¼g/kg is already considered high. Phthalates are considered toxic to humans and animals, with possible harmful effects on fertility and fetal development, while some of them are classified as carcinogenic. Despite all these, the annual global production of phthalates is 3 million tons.
â€œThe contamination of cetaceans by plastics is of deep concern regarding the state of the ocean and should be a warning for our own health,â€ said WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative Leader, Giuseppe Di Carlo. "The Mediterranean Sea is suffocated everyday by paint, cosmetic products and plastic bags. Our society produces tons of plastics with irreversible effects on our oceans. On World Oceans Day, we urge consumers, industry, Governments and coastal cities to eliminate the use of plastic as well as to collect and recycle plastic waste, " he added.
A growing problem
The Mediterranean Sea has already been characterized as an 'accumulating zone of plastic debris' and is actually classified as the sixth highest region for the accumulation of plastic debris on the planet, with an estimate of between 1000 and 3000 tons of plastic and an average of 115,000 microplastic particles per km2 floating on its surface. The numbers are shocking: between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every day, 93% of which is consumer waste, according to the statement.