Spotlight on Science Seminar Series:

Presents:    Plastic Debris As a Source of Contaminants in the Alaska Marine Environment

 

Guest Speaker:  John M. Kennish PhD

When:  Friday, April 20, 2012  12-1pm (Brown Bag Lunch)

Where:  Alaska SeaLife Center

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Free seminar, everyone welcome!

Marine debris accumulated from around the world has been the focus of recent studies because of the threat it poses to the marine environment.  The quantity present is recognized to be harmful for marine organisms and wildlife species.  Many of the wildlife ingest micro plastics (< 5 mm) mistakenly as food particles which they do not metabolize but are harmful for their health and survival.  Plastic has the potential to leach toxic compounds collected in the marine environment or that are present from their manufacture. The uptake and release of these compounds by sorption mechanisms is being studied.

Additionally little work has been done to determine the level of toxic plastic additives in the tissue and organs of marine animals.  The initial focus of our research in this area of study has been to determine the levels of phthalates in different species found in the coastal regions of Alaska, a location with one of the largest marine plastic debris accumulations.  Tissues from clams. halibut, salmon and marine birds were analyzed and significant levels of two of the most common phthalates (DEHP and DEP) were seen in these samples.  These compounds are known to be toxic endocrine disruptors in mammals and have already been banned in most of the European Nations and the United States. The implications of our studies will be discussed and a discussion of future research needs encouraged.

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