HUMANS

Plastic pollution reduces our waterways’ recreational and aesthetic value, interferes with navigation, and disrupts commercial and recreational fishing. Microplastics also pose a risk to human health. Many chemicals found in plastics are endocrine disruptors, which can cause an imbalance in hormones, reproductive issues, and even cancer. Also, microplastics can leach harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Both of these types of chemicals are known to interfere with hormones. Studies show that bisphenols can lower fertility in both men and women. Prenatal exposure to phthalates in males may cause low testosterone levels.

WILDLIFE

About 86% of sea turtles, 44% of sea birds, and 43% of marine mammals are adversely affected by marine debris. The most common threats from plastic to wildlife are ingestion of contaminants and entanglement. When animals ingest plastic particles, the particles can cause organ damage and leach chemicals into the bloodstream.

ENVIRONMENT

When pollution debris accumulates in the environment, it alters habitat structure, reduces light levels, and depletes the dissolved oxygen supply. This indirectly impacts species that depend on benthic habitats. Plastic trash accumulates and transports persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBTs) contaminants in concentrations thousands of times greater than the natural environment, which can lead to low testosterone levels when ingested. Studies have shown that plastic can potentially adsorb chemicals and transport these chemicals into the food chain.