In part one of Fish and Paint Chips, readers learn how plastic and other debris in the world’s increasingly polluted oceans could be channeling toxins straight onto our dinner plates through tainted seafood. Interviews with experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and non-profit foundations devoted to ocean cleanup reveal how the cutting edge of environmental health research is now moving thousands of miles from land, where small bits of plastic are thought to soak up chemicals from paint chips, old metal and other garbage and end up eventually in the guts of the fish we eat. The story is a shocking look at a formerly invisible health threat that is just now coming on the scientific community’s radar screen.
In part two, readers learn the back story about how the oceans became so polluted, who is fighting to mitigate the worst of it, and who is fighting to maintain the status quo. The story shows why the political as well as scientific aspects of the issue must be addressed, and reveals the interests of major players in the plastic industry who hope to avoid even minimal local regulation. Part two brings to light how industry can rely on million-dollar ad campaigns to maintain its market share, whatever the environmental cost, and why environmental groups are often outmatched both financially and politically. It points out that while seafood restaurants are not the source of the problem, they have done little to educate consumers about the potential health impacts of their product — perhaps because, according to a recent award-winning book about the seafood industry, their product is worth $55 billion a year. Surveying the landscape ahead, part two suggests that when it comes to the world’s polluted oceans, there will be no quick or easy fixes even if governments and private industries start mitigation efforts today.
Watch the video interviews of Holly Bamford, Director of NOAA’s marine debris program at DCBureau.