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A report endorsed by the UN warns of the damage caused by microplastics in marine animals and humans

The NGO Flora.

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A report endorsed by the UN warns of the damage caused by microplastics in marine animals and humans

The NGO Flora


A report from the NGO Flora

This document prepared in September 2022, which has a prologue written by the UN special envoy for the Oceans, Peter Thompson, seeks to raise awareness of the problems caused by these spills and try to be a reference for public managers when one occurs. of these episodes.

The report, like many others prepared internationally in recent years, is based on the discharge of pellets generated by the ship 'X-Press Pearl' in May 2021 off the coast of Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean. She lost about 1,680 tons of this material, a figure much higher than the 26.2 tons of pellets that were traveling in one of the containers that fell from the freighter 'Toconao' on December 8 off the Portuguese coast.

The work warns that "all marine species have come into contact with microplastic pollution" and 90 percent had a negative impact. In fact, it is estimated that some 14 million tons of microplastics contaminate the seabed.

In these species it impacts from the first step of the food chain, since even zooplankton confuse microplastics with food. Regarding pellets, Flora's document

"Pellets are inherently dangerous due to the toxic additives they contain. They also act like a sponge, absorbing and accumulating bacteria and contaminants that persist in the sea. When pellets come into contact with -- or are eaten by -- marine animals , toxins, chemicals and bacteria can potentially be transferred to the animal," the report adds.

Regarding the impact they have on the human body, Flora

Maritime transportation of tons of pellets stored in containers is the main method by which this material travels around the world. The large volume of merchandise "increases the risk" of contamination of the marine environment, especially when containers fall, are damaged or open because they are not well sealed.

Furthermore, most international initiatives and treaties regarding plastics focus mainly on preventing pellet spills during their manufacture or transportation on land, not so much at sea.

The 'X-Press Pearl' disaster, with more than 1,680 tons of these plastic microbeads dumped into the sea in 2021, was the largest event of its kind in recent years. However, there were several in the immediately preceding decade, with loss amounts ranging between 11 and 150 tons. Among all of them, Flora

To this chronology we can add the loss of 26.2 tons from the 'Toconao', a ship rented by the Danish Maersk that lost up to six containers near Portugal in December 2023. The plastic balls reached the Galician coasts during the following weeks.

The NGO criticizes in its report that, despite the standards already drawn up by the International Maritime Organization (IMO or IMO, for its acronym in English), there is no international legislation that recommends or establishes the way in which pellets should go on board. of cargo ships.


For all these reasons, this report suggests that governments do not delay in "taking a step forward" in both domestic and international legislation, through negotiations at the IMO. In this context, he considers that the Global Plastics Treaty that continues to be negotiated at the international level offers an "opportunity" to stop these discharges into the sea.