We all have an understanding that the world's ocean is highly polluted with plastic. But just how extensive this plastic pollution is, has been hard to quantify - until now.
New research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has revealed that huge amounts of microplastics pervade even the oceans deepest point the Mariana Trench.
The deep trench is located east of China and the Philippines, it has a maximum depth of about 11 kilometers.
No light can penetrate the crescent-shaped trench where water temperatures range between 1 and 4 degrees Celsius and there is pressures of 16,000 psi, around 1100 times the amount of pressure at the surface.
Plastics affecting both sea and human life
Despite these tough condition, there is life in the trench and it seems like plastics is having negative effects on it too. In fact, the researchers say the trench might be “one of the largest sinks for microplastic debris on Earth".
Their research revealed the awful news that the deeper they looked below sea level the more the level of plastic increased. It reaches a peak of 13.51 pieces per liter.
Plastic breaks down to smaller and smaller particles
The plastic wasn’t contained in the water but also found in the sediments between 7 and 11 kilometers down.
The plastic is likely to be coming from highly industrialized zones within the Northwest Pacific as well as from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Plastic doesn’t degrade in the ocean but does smash up into smaller and smaller pieces, making it harder and harder to capture.
Plastic only has two options to float back to shore or to sink down, and this new research looks as though it has been sinking down to the deepest depths.
Humans likely to consuming microplastics
Plastics in our oceans isn’t just a problem for our oceans animals who they kill though blocking their respiratory and digestive tracts as well as causing life-threatening hormonal imbalances.
These plastics consumed by ocean-dwelling animals can be delivered back to humans via the food chain.
It is likely that microplastics are already present in common seafood. There have been studies done on microplastics in food, but due to an inconsistency in methodology, it is hard to say for sure exactly how much plastic we are unintentionally consuming.
There also isn’t a huge amount so data on what microplastics do to our own digestive systems or if there are other long-term health effects.
An article by two scientists suggests that plastic is in more than just seafood and that you could be digesting microplastic through drinking bottled water and even chicken.
The research about the Mariana Trench was published in Geochemical Perspectives Letters in November.