Plastic Pearls

Synthetic fossils

adjoin the coastline.

Fallen into dirty piles

they wait to be

shucked clean of sand,

and mud,

and debris.

Flowing like tallow

beneath the waves.

 

Fleece jackets

wick our irritants.

Fallen into dirty piles

they wait to be

shucked clean of sand,

and mud,

and debris.

Bleeding poisons

with every wash.

 

Fragile vessels

drink their fill.

Fallen into dirty piles

they wait to be

shucked clean of sand,

and mud,

and debris.

Diving for answers

when we could be diving for pearls.

Pacific oyster shell and pearl (Image Credit: Science Photo Library).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that microplastics are being discovered in Pacific oysters and razor clams along the Oregon coast, in the United States.

Microplastics (i.e. those plastics that are 0.0001–5 mm in diameter) are found in nearly every environment on Earth. These tiny fragments, pellets, filaments, and fibers are typically produced from the breakdown of larger plastics that undergo weathering, through exposure to, for example, wave action, wind abrasion, and ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. Such microplastics may threaten ecosystem balance and natural resource consumers, particularly in the case of seafood, such as Pacific oysters and razor clams along the Oregon coast in the United States; two organisms that have commercial, recreational, and cultural importance.

By collecting samples from 15 sites along the Oregon coast, the researchers from this study found on average 11 microplastic pieces per oyster and nine pieces per clam. Furthermore, the researchers were also able to identify nearly all of these microplastics as being microfibers, which can come from sweat-wicking clothing as well as from derelict fishing equipment. The degree to which microplastics pose a threat to coastal marine ecology or the wider food web (including humans) is still unclear; however, this study provides valuable insights about the spatial and temporal variability in microplastics across coastal regions.

An audio version of this poem can be heard here:

4 thoughts on “Plastic Pearls”

  1. This is shocking Sam. Your Poetry of Science highlights such a broad spectrum of life threatened species and environmental factors and brings it home to me in a way that I can easily comprehend – THANK YOU. Javier is also now singing up

    Reply

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