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New ocean pollution threat called 'plastitar'

Posted at 12:32 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 15:32:19-04

(KERO) — Scientists are worried two forms of ocean pollution are joining together to form a sort of "super" pollution.

For years, Bay Area environmental groups have warned of the dangers of microplastics reaching San Francisco bay. But now, researchers believe plastics are combining with oil to create a different form of pollution.

In a small study, a team on the Canary Islands documented dangerous microplastics embedded in oily tar balls. The combination is being dubbed "plastitar."

One concern is once the fragments are embedded on a beach or coastline They could degrade even further, finding their way into the food chain and marine environment.

Jennifer Stock is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The group organizes volunteers who routinely monitor the Bay Area coastline for signs of spilled oil that could threaten wildlife.

"So we have a lot of ships coming and going. And they're coming and going through some of the most biodiverse waters in the world. So we are always looking to how to best take care of these waters to prevent oil spills from happening."

Researchers say it's unclear how widespread the "plastitar" phenomenon is. But they say it could be a red flag for the dual-threat to our oceans from microplastics and industrial pollution.