A recent study reports plastic pollution has deposited itself into our fossil record. Water bottles, lunch bags and clothing laced with microfibers— welcome to what some are calling the “plastic age.”
However, this didn’t occur overnight as contamination has been building since 1945.
“Our love of plastic is being left behind in our fossil record,” said lead researcher Jennifer Brandon at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.
“We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she told The Guardian. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.”
Experts think the findings could be used to calculate the onset of the Anthropocene, a proposed geological epoch said to be created by human actions taking over Mother Earth.
The highly researched study shows the rise of plastic pollution in sediments and looked at yearly layers off California’s coast dating from 1834 and over the last 70 years.
The plastic particles found were mostly fibers from synthetic fabrics indicating plastics move voluntarily on the ocean via wastewater.
The journal Science Advances published the research and said microscopic plastics in the sediments has doubled about every 15 years since the 1940s.
It’s not hard to see why as mass amounts of plastics are sent into the environment annually and broken down into small pieces, but fibers aren’t biodegradable. This could be worrisome as people consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year via food and water.
While the impact on health is still a mystery — microplastics which are found everywhere from ocean floors to the tallest mountains — can release toxic substances and could penetrate tissues, experts said.
Image via Rey Perezoso