Youthreporter – european clean-up day – plastic bags, cigarettes and other trash – the global issue of marine litter (inderweitenweltzuhause)

Imagine an island in the ocean one third of the size of Europe. Not a continent but an island. As big as Italy, France and Germany together. Now, imagine that this island exists. And it’s true, it exists and its floating in the Pacific Ocean. Rediscovered Atlantis? Would be nice. But this island I am talking about is man made. Made of plastic bags, wheels, cans, containers, bottles and all kind of trash. It’s an island of garbage, thrown in the sea, rivers and oceans. Due to currents and winds, it travels through the oceans and accumulates forming floating dumps of marine litter, reaching a depth of 30 meters.

Marine litter consists of garbage people throw deliberately in the sea or let on the beaches. But mainly, it’s made of agricultural, industrial and domestic trash thrown in rivers and brought to the oceans. It consists of 70% of plastic, a slowly degrading material and is a global issue. Because the quantity of marine litter is growing continuously. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), 7 million tons of litter enter the oceans every year. About 13 000 pieces of litter are floating in the sea per km2 today.

This trash is causing a wide range of damages. It damages directly the wildlife by entanglement of animals. The seas fauna, especially sea turtles, confuse plastic bags with Medusa and die of ingestion with a stomach full of plastic. Especially plastic is a source of toxic substances contaminating the water and destroying ecosystems. But the problems are not only environmental. The also affect the safety and health of people living near the coasts or diving. Finally the problems are also economical. It costs a huge amount of money to fishermen loosing fishing opportunities repairing their boats, propellers and harbors damaged by floating litter. Marine litter causes damages to every part of society.

The reasons why the oceans have become our global trash repository are quite various. Increasing amounts of marine litter are due to poor practices of waste management, a lack of adequate regulations and international standards. But except necessary legal systems, marine litter is caused by every human being. Because most of us are not aware of the consequences of throwing directly or indirectly garbage in the sea. Because contrary to the widespread opinion, most of the garbage in the seas can not be seen. Do you remember the Atlantis like garbage island in the Pacific Ocean? So, now consider that there are several of these islands converging in the world’s seas. And that this garbage floating on the water’s surface represents only 15% of the total amount of marine litter in the sea today. Other 15% can be found on beaches. But the biggest amount of marine litter, the other 70%, sink to the seabed. There, there is no chance to collect them anymore, they will take more time to fragment because of the abyssal climate and are responsible of the smothering of this fragile habitat.

Even if the United Nations started a global initiative for preventing and managing marine litter, that the political awareness of the problem increased, that organizations and protected areas work against it, these current efforts are not enough to reserve the trend of increasing amounts of garbage in the sea. Global regulations and controls should be enforced, preventional and educational measures to reach everybody s awareness improved. And up to now, everybody can participate in reducing the problem. Everybody could avoid waste, reuse and recycle more. And participate at the Let’s Clean up Europe! action! To keep at least this trash away of returning to the sea.
And to do a small step to stop the garbage Atlantis’ growing.

More information about the European action can be found here /


E-cigarettes could save lives, european conference told – ny daily news

Switching to e cigarettes could save millions of smokers’ lives, a conference on the rapidly expanding use of the devices heard Tuesday, though some delegates warned more research on the health effects is needed.

The merits of e cigarettes were thrashed out at a one day gathering of scientists, experts, policymakers and industry figures at the Royal Society in London.

The use of electronic cigarettes pen sized battery powered devices that simulate smoking by heating and vaporizing a liquid solution containing nicotine has grown rapidly.

Sales have doubled annually for the last four years and there are an estimated seven million users across Europe.

Many delegates merrily “vaped” away throughout the conference sessions, including one man with a luxuriant moustache puffing away on an e pipe.

“Cigarettes are killing 5.4 million people per year in the world,” said Robert West, a health psychology professor and the director of tobacco studies at Cancer Research UK.

He said switching to e cigarettes could save millions of lives, but the debate was about “whether that goal can be realized and how best to do it”.

The professor said almost a third of attempts to quit smoking involved e cigarettes.

Doctor Jacques Le Houezec, a consultant in public health and tobacco dependence from France, told delegates that while e cigarettes contained some harmful substances, the levels of toxicants were nine to 450 times lower than in cigarette smoke.

He said the exponential growth of e cigarettes was being led by smokers, not scientists.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the Action on Smoking and Heath (ASH) pressure group, said e cigarettes could be a leap forward for public health but warned that not enough was known about their effects and pointed out that the tobacco companies are snapping up the e cigarette manufacturers.

“ASH thinks that e cigarettes have significant potential. They are a lot less harmful than smoking. Clearly smokers find them attractive, primarily as a way of quitting and moving away from smoking, which they know will kill them,” she told AFP.

“But at the moment I think the jury’s out and these products need regulating because there’s a real concern that their safety and effectiveness is not guaranteed without regulation.

“The tobacco companies are moving in. For them it’s potentially a ‘Kodak moment’ because if everyone moved to e cigarettes, they’d lose their market so they’ve got to be in there. A lot of the bigger e cigarette companies have already been bought up.”

She warned “If there are carcinogens in there, you won’t see an immediate effect but 10, 15, 20 years down the line, people will be dying from that.

“The development of e cigarettes is definitely running ahead of the science.”