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We Are Dwelling In Plastic Age... Plastic Found In Sedimentary Layers


Plastic detection of coastal sediments in California (Yonhap News)

Reporter Lee Kwang-cheol said that since 1945, environmental pollution has increased, and plastic is accumulating in the fossil record.


Scientists say that plastics in the sedimentary strata can be an indicator of the beginning of a new generation called the 'Anthropocene', meaning that humankind began to destroy the global environment. After the Bronze and Iron Age, they fear that this world could be recorded as the 'Plastic Age.'


Researchers at the Scripps Oceanography Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego, dated back to 1834 to investigate sediment formations off the coast of California. This is the first time that a detailed investigation of the sediment layer's plastic contamination has been made.


The team found plastic in the strata, consistent with an exponential increase in plastic production over the past 70 years.


Most of the plastic molecules come from synthetic fibers that make clothes, and the researchers show that plastic flows through the sewage into the ocean.


"Our love of plastic remains in the fossil record," said Jennifer Brandon, the leader of the research team. "Plastics are harmful to even undersea creatures such as coral reefs and mussels. The recurring question thrown to the world is whether this age will be known as the Plastic Age."


She shared her fear of plastic contamination, saying that it is a terrible thing for the current generation to be recorded as the Plastic Age.


According to the study published in the international scientific journal Science Advance, the amount of fine plastics in the strata has doubled every 15 years since the 1940s.


Nearly 40 plastic molecules were detected in the sea floor area of ​​10 cm^2 in the most recent analysis year: 2010. It found that two-thirds of the molecules were from plastic fibers, one-fifth from other plastic fragments, and about one-tenth were plastic films.


Brandon said the data clearly shows that plastic began to accumulate in the sedimentary layers shortly after its invention.


In 2016, a study found that 700,000 fine plastics were discharged in a single wash. Brandon said, "The problem faced with not filtering plastics at home and in sewage treatment plants was how to treat sewage and with what materials to make clothes with to reduce micro-plastics."


The team collected sedimentary samples more than a mile off the coast of Santa Barbara, near Los Angeles. While analyzing the past habitat of fish, a 36 cm long sample was found, and it helped determine plastic contamination.


"The sample was taken in 2010, and there is no reason to think that the contamination has decreased because plastics have been continuously manufactured. I hope this study manifests the seriousness of plastic pollution" he said.

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