Ocean Pollution and Its Effects

Oceans are the largest water bodies on the planet Earth. The ocean influences weather, human and marine life forms, and the environment in general. On this regard, it merely means that the effects of polluting our oceans can be far-reaching. The increase of ocean pollution is continually affecting the health of humans and most importantly the survival of marine life.

Ocean pollution also known as marine pollution, is the spreading of harmful substances such as oil, plastic, industrial and agricultural waste and chemical particles into the ocean. Depending on the degree of pollutant concentrations and the relative incidences of pollution, the outcomes can be highly disastrous.

Loads of oil dumped into the oceans on yearly basis seriously affects the ocean creatures. Oil can clog the gills and feathers of the ocean creatures, making it hard for them to move or fly without restraint.

Ocean pollutants contain a variety of toxic substances especially heavy metals like lead and mercury. Whenever they are ingested by sea creatures then consumed by humans, the consequences can be very detrimental. Consumption of seafood poisoned by lead and mercury has given rise to life-threatening illnesses.

For instance, diseases like hepatitis and cancer have been attributed to consuming seafood that has been poisoned by lead and mercury. Besides, indirect ingestion of heavy metals is associated with disruption of the central nervous system in young children and fetuses.

Besides that, the coral reefs are destroyed at an alarming rate owing to oil spills and other chemical nutrients. The reefs add aesthetic value and provide for spawning, feeding, and dwelling grounds for numerous sea creatures.

Many sea creatures depend on the natural food chain for survival. When chemicals and other pollutants are carried into the oceans and consumed by the sea creatures, it disrupts the interconnected relationships within the food chain.

It happens when small animals ingest the contaminant elements after which they are eaten by bigger animals, consequently, affecting the entire natural food chain. The creatures intoxicated with substances such as lead or mercury may also be consumed by humans leading to diseases like cancer, reproductive disorders, and even premature deaths.

The increasing entry of pollutants in the oceans has created very acidic regions, raised water temperatures, promoted the growth of toxic chemical nutrients and plants, and lead to depletion of dissolved oxygen.

This has forced marine creatures to move out of certain regions and even completely destroyed their dwelling grounds thereby creating marine dead zones. 

Garbage patches have also been formed in some areas especially towards the north Pacific where plastics and other floating materials from around the world float, building a huge waste dump.

These non-biodegradable plastics are consumed by birds, fish, mammals and cause severe digestive problem which eventually kill them due to lack of nutrients and plastic in their stomachs preventing absorbtion of nutrients to the blood stream. Last 30 March was Earth Day, Governments, Corporations, Media and people must work together to find a sustainable solution to this global plastic waste crisis.

Paul T. Tan, Architect and Environmentalist

Currently Principal of ARKdesign Architects and Managing Editor of ARKdesign Quarterly, AQ e-magazine