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First World Oceans

22 scientists from around the world—including Silliman University’s Hilconida Calumpong, Ph.D.—submitted to the UN General Assembly in late 2015 their report as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects. Here are some excerpts:

Increasing inputs of harmful material

Land-based inputs
Achievements of the past two centuries in feeding, clothing and housing the world’s population have been at the price of seriously degrading important parts of the planet, including much of the marine environment, especially near the coast. Urban growth, unaccompanied in much of the world by adequate disposal of human bodily wastes, has also imposed major pressures on the ocean. There is a need for action to deal with sewage (including industrial wastes that are mixed with human bodily wastes) in developing countries. The lack of sewage systems and wastewater treatment plants is still a major threat to the ocean.

Heavy metals and other hazardous substances
Industrial processes have brought with them serious environmental damage, especially when the concentration of industries have led to intense levels of inputs to the sea wastes which could not be assimilated. That damage is largely caused by heavy metals (especially lead, mercury, copper and zinc). With the development of organic chemistry, new substances have been created to provide important services in managing electricity (for example, polychlorinated biphenyls) and as pesticides. Chlorine has also been widely used in many industrial processes (such as pulp and paper production), producing hazardous by-products. Many of those chemical products and processes have proved to have a wide range of hazardous side-effects.

There are also problems from imperfectly controlled incinerations, which can produce polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons and, where plastics are involved, dioxins and furans. All those substances have adverse effects on the marine environment. There is evidence that some substances (often called endocrine disruptors), which do not reach the levels of toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation in the accepted definitions of hazardous substances, can disrupt the endocrine systems of humans and animals, with adverse effects on their reproductive success. Action is already being taken on several of those, but more testing is needed to clarify whether action is needed on others.

The differential growth in industrial production between countries bordering the North Atlantic, on the one hand, and those bordering the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, on the other hand, means that much of that growth is now taking place in parts of the world that had not previously had to deal with industrial discharges on the current scale. Even if the best practicable means are used to deal with heavy metals and hazardous substances in the waste streams from those growing industries, the growth in output and consequent discharges will increase the inputs of heavy metals and other hazardous substances into the ocean. It is therefore urgent to apply new less-polluting technologies, where they exist, and means of removing heavy metals and other hazardous substances from discharges, if the level of contamination of the ocean, particularly in coastal areas, is not to increase. – (Excerpted by SU Research and Environmental News Service)

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