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Environment

Am I Running on Plastic?

Am I Running on Plastic?
Plastics (and other toxins) are running up the food chain to our plates 

As a runner, I am thinking constantly about workouts, future races, and running strategies, but top of my list has always been food. Since diet is the most important aspect of a runner’s training aside from sleeping and well, running of course, food can help or hinder one’s work out. 

I read something recently that has put me on alert about diet. On January 22, 2009, legislators in Virgina have been considering banning plastic bags at grocery stroes and chain retailers like Target and Walmart. This is due to the bags’ environmental impact.   

This is welcome news – especially since I spent many years training myself to bring my own bags to the grocery store and other places, so that I don’t need to use a plastic bag. I don’t care how stupid I look – in fact, today I noticed just how “in” taking one’s bags to the market are. I noticed at least three other families with their wares in reusable sacks.  

As you can imagine, LA, being all “environmental” and all with it’s air pollution and energy issues the LA Times announced in June 2008 that plastic bags would be banned from supermarkets so if you forget your bags, you can pay 25 cents for a bag. Now really, I would be nice if I was paid 25 cents for bringing a bag. I am lucky if I get anything back at all, and if I do it’s  measly 10 cents. Trust me. People in LA will shell out the 25 cents so nice, LA, you’ve done nothing but enable people.   

  

So let me get to the issue of what is now becoming a diatribe and soap box speech.  Years ago I read something about how our oceans are becoming landfills. Being the eco-conscious person I am, I registered this information but didn’t really do much with it until after I read about the potential ban on plastic bags in Virginia.

  

By the way, the articles on this topic are numerous.  Other familiar names for this “land mass” are the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex.”  This nasty soup of flotsam is composed of plastic gunk; it floats just below the surface about a foot down.  A sailor names Charles Moore, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997 while sailing home from an international yacht race.  He ran into this mess and found himself surrounding by garbage as far as the eye could see.

It turns out the eye could not see far enough. You really have to fly over this mass in order to get an idea of its emensity.  

  

Sea Turtle with Plastic Bag.

Sea Turtle with Plastic Bag.

 

So here is the bad part.  Millions of fish and birds are ingesting the contents of this soup and many are dying. Others are getting caught in plastic netting. Mr. Moore, who was once a rich oil boy and now is a well-known oceanographer and ocean activist is warning us to cut bag on plastics use.  His concern? 

This plastic soup could double in the next 20 years. 

whale-in-plastic

Whale wrapped in plastic fish net

 

What is the most frightening is that not only is this hellacious human-made mess an embarrassment to the piggishness of our behaviour, as the plastic falls apart or decomposes, they are ingested by microplankton. Fish eat the microplankton. Fish also eat small plastic byproducts called nurdles, or small plastic remnants from the plastics industry that make their ways to our waterways through spills and other poor management practices. The problem with them is that they absorb chemicals like pesticides and hydrocarbons (aka carcinogenic material) which is eaten by fish which we then eat.  It’s like the oceanic version of when eagles ate aminals and insects laced with DDT back in Rachel Carson’s day. The shells of eagle’s eggs were noticably thinner, as noticed in numerous ecological studies. 

This means that if you are pregnant there is even more reason to avoid fish during your pregnany. 

For me this is no brainer. Just like I promised myself to get off of disposable water bottles, I am doing it with plastics bags and other plastic materials. At the supermarket everything is covered in plastic – from the deli meat that gets put into a plastic bag and brought home, to the plastic bags we put the apples and tomatoes in, to the plastic bags the salads come in to the plastic meat is wrapped in.  Now that I know that I am potentially eating plastic and lord knows what other chemicals in my fish, I think twice now before I eat fish. 

For more information read: 

Plastic Trash in the Ocean as Far as One Can See
www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/Pacific-Garbage-Patch30oct07.htm
 

Giant Patch of Ocean Debris Carries, Plastic Ghost Nets, Trash Onto Island Shores 
http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/Honolulu-Patch-Of-Plastic13feb06.htm
 

Ocean Debris: Habitat for Some, Havoc for Environment, Experts Say http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/04/070423-ocean-plastic.html 

Turtle photo from: http://tourdeturtles.org/maritime-cause.html 

Whale photo from: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/site/News2?abbr=bpm_&page=NewsArticle&id=10057 

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