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It’s Not Just Fish, Plastic Pollution Harms The Bacteria That Help Us Breathe

May 14, 2019 / Kevin Krejci

Ten per cent of the oxygen we breathe comes from just one kind of bacteria in the ocean. Now laboratory tests have shown that these bacteria are susceptible to plastic pollution, according to a study published in Communications Biology. “We found that exposure to chemicals leaching from plastic pollution interfered with the growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria,” says lead author and Macquarie University researcher Dr Sasha Tetu. “Now we’d like to explore if plastic pollution is having the same impact on these microbes in the ocean.” Plastic pollution has been estimated to cause more than US$13 billion in economic damage to marine ecosystems each year, and the problem is only getting worse with marine plastic pollution estimated to outweigh fish by 2050. “This pollution can leach a variety of chemical additives into marine environments, but unlike the threats posed by ...