Why things simply need to change

I was driving to the lab one morning when I heard a discussion on the radio. The discussion was about the effects of plastics on animal health, as well as environmental issues. I am sure I don’t need to talk ad nauseam about whales dying and the damage to other sea life. The pictures of the two sperm whales washed up recently with stomachs full of plastic shows the of the injustice and disgrace of plastic pollution in our seas far more than I can articulate. But the issues go further. Plastics which end up in the sewerage system and ultimately in ponds, rivers and seas does more than cause death by malnutrition or starvation, they can actively change the gender of fish.

Plasticisers used in the production of many common plastic items can leach into water over time. These can cause biological changes to male organisms, because the plasticisers can mimic the female hormone, oestrogen. When male organisms have elevated oestrogen, they begin to develop female characteristics. In the case of fish, it has been shown that male perch exposed to some of these chemicals are beginning to develop eggs. This is obviously not an ideal situation for these animals.

In fairness, plasticisers are not the only culprit. Hormone based medications can also have an effect. However, if we can at least reduce the amount of harmful waste causing damage to the environment by reducing the amount of traditional plastic that causes issues like the one just discussed, then surely that can only be a good thing.



Ryan Taylor