Tackling plastic pollution in the Philippines

Three people on a canoe floating on clear waterBeth Polidoro, ASU New College professor and Center for Biodiversity Outcomes associate center director of biodiversity valuation and assessments, was featured in an Arizona PBS special about her research on plastics in seafood. Plastic pollution has been a trending topic in the news for its ecological impact and health implications for humans and animals. Within only the last couple of decades, scientists have discovered microplastics being retained by organisms. “Plastics have been found in pretty much all types of fishes, oysters, mollusks, phytoplankton and zooplankton —the primary producers of the ocean— and many of it is coming from large amounts of garbage that’s coming into the oceans from river systems around the world,” said Polidoro. Her research interest in the Philippines stems from the country being a mega-diverse location, containing two-thirds of the Earth’s species. As Polidoro explains, “[The Philippines are] the center of marine biodiversity. There are over 4,000 species of fishes there and 700 species of coral. It's one of the countries that have the highest marine biodiversity across the globe but, unfortunately, it has one of the highest plastic production and waste management issues across the globe as well.” Although studies are still uncertain of the implications of consuming plastic, we do know that just like fish, we can move chemicals into our tissues. Therefore, we accumulate chemicals into our bodies. “We know that these chemicals cause health issues: cancer, endocrine disruption, hormone disruption; but what we don’t know is how much [we can] handle before we see long term chronic impact. That’s still an area of research,” Polidoro added. Since plastic in seafood is a new and developing issue, we are uncertain how large a risk plastics are in the ecosystem. Further research is required to better understand the complexities and impact of the plastic pollution crisis. To watch the full interview, click here.