Consequences of pellets on Spanish beaches

plastics in the sea

The constant deposit of pellets along the Cantabrian coast is having important consequences for both the marine environment and health in general, directly impacting the different organisms that reside in the seas and coastal regions. This practice has been found to contribute to increased chemical pollution and toxicity levels. Many people do not know the consequences of pellets on Spanish beaches.

Therefore, in this article we are going to tell you what the main consequences of pellets are on Spanish beaches.

Pellet pouring

Consequences of pellets on Spanish beaches

The dumping of plastic pellets from the merchant Toconao, caused by the loss of several containers at sea, has already spread to various areas of the Cantabrian coast, with special focus on Galician and Asturian areas.

While negotiations for a Global Plastics Treaty face numerous challenges, the spill incident, particularly with regard to the marine ecosystem, intensifies the political controversy between the Xunta and the central government in the run-up to regional elections, while at the same time time that is the subject of legal proceedings for an environmental crime.

The governments of Asturias and Cantabria have intensified its response to accidental marine pollution moving to phase 2 of its plan. The detection of microplastics on its coast has motivated this action. In addition, Cantabria has raised its Civil Protection Territorial Emergency Plan to level 2 with the aim of requesting help from the central government to avoid a massive influx of pellets to the coast.

In an effort to mitigate the potential impact on its coastline, the Basque Government has devised a strategy to recover pellets from the open sea. For this, they have designated in Santurtzi two vessels that are equipped with specialized nets designed specifically to collect these plastic particles. If the need arises, the government is prepared to deploy these vessels from Toconao. Additionally, they are currently examining the presence of other types of microplastics along their coasts.

Consequences of pellets on Spanish beaches

pellet collection

The appearance of this important spill has highlighted the importance of a "side effect" usually associated with the chemical industry, such as the presence of microplastic waste on the beaches and river ecosystems of Spain.

At this first stage, the extent of the consequences of these colorful, spherical balls, which serve as basic components for plastic production, cannot be fully assessed. However, experts are shedding light on the potential impact they can have on the environment, biodiversity and even human health. The question arises: to what extent can this waste be harmful to our environment?

These pellets pose a significant environmental threat. They have the ability to persist in the environment for a considerable period of time, which ranges between 50 and 70 years, and decompose into smaller particles, finally forming microplastics. The implications for marine organisms are twofold. Firstly, ingesting these granules can cause physical damage. Second, there is the risk of exposure to chemical contaminants associated with pellets.

These contaminants may already be present in the granules due to the inclusion of additives, or they may be acquired from the surrounding environment. Some chemical contaminants exist in very low concentrations in the environment, but adhere to the surface of the granules, which causes their concentration and makes them even more dangerous for the marine organisms that consume them.

There are numerous studies carried out with pellets collected in the Canary Islands that have revealed the presence of more than 80 different types of contaminants, such as pesticides, flame retardants and UV filters. On the contrary, when the fish were fed a diet containing 10% microplastics and pellets collected on beaches by the EOMAR group, which contained chemical contaminants, it was observed that these contaminants were transferred to the fish's liver.

How to treat pellets on beaches

pellet tide

To effectively address the issue of discarded pellets, the ECOAQUA institute research group highlights the need to acquire comprehensive knowledge about these products. This includes understand the specific type of plastic used, whether the pellets contain any additives and whether the technical sheet provides any relevant specifications. It is also essential to quickly remove the pellets from the coast to avoid their integration with the sand and algae, which greatly complicates the collection process.

The incident has caused extensive plastic pollution that is very difficult to eradicate. Once introduced into the marine ecosystem, these plastic particles fragment due to wave action and exposure to sunlight. The toxicity of plastic increases as it breaks down into smaller fragments, making it more easily absorbed by organisms.

The damage is the result of prolonged and continuous contact. There is no immediate danger when touching these substances, despite what some may claim, since they do not have acute toxicity. However, sea creatures can experience two different problems as a result of exposure.

Ingestion of these granules can cause physical impact as they block the digestive system, ultimately causing death from starvation. Additionally, there is a possibility of chemical damage caused by the additives found in these granules. Some of These additives can be highly toxic, including sunscreens. Even if the granules do not contain such additives and are made of inert compounds such as PET, they continue to function as absorbent materials, accumulating other pollutants present in the marine environment. This buildup can also cause chemical damage.

When we consume these fish, we will also absorb the substances they have accumulated. It is a known fact that fish cannot be completely free of contamination and while it may be too early to determine the full extent of this incident, it is certain that contamination levels will increase as a result of this spill.

These tiny Plastic spheres have a remarkably long lifespan in the natural environment. Due to their buoyancy, they can easily be swept away by ocean currents, making their recovery a daunting task. While some of these plastics will eventually wash ashore, as we are already witnessing, others will remain hidden from view, either drifting out to sea or sinking to the depths, where they can become entangled in organic matter or buried in sediments.

In addition to their striking visual appearance, these spheres have a wide range of sizes that make them Marine organisms easily mistake them for food, which leads to their ingestion and subsequent physical damage.. This damage can manifest itself in various ways, including alterations in food intake, abrasion, as well as endocrine disruption and impacts of the toxic substances they carry.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the consequences of the dumping of pellets on Spanish beaches.


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