Ocean Pollution: Facts We Need To Know

international water safety day

Ocean Pollution: Facts We Need To Know

For many years, people have used the sea as a sink and assumed that its vast size would grant it immunity to the effects of pollution. Only in the 1950s when mercury poisoning killed 46 people in Japan and left another 141 permanently paralysed from Minimata disease (methylmercury poisoning), was serious attention given to the fate of marine pollutants.

Almost any substance in excess can be a pollutant. Pollutants are dumped, pumped, spilled, leaked and even washed out with our laundry. Each year, we expose the world’s waterways to an increasing variety of pollutants — plastic debris, chemical runoff, crude oil, sewage and much more.

Did you know that plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues?

Eight million metric tons of plastic – or the equivalent of nearly 57,000 blue whales – are dumped into the ocean every year. Once plastics break down into microplastics and drift throughout the water column in the open ocean, they are virtually impossible to recover. In addition, headline-grabbing oil spills account for just 12 percent of the oil in our oceans. Three times as much oil is carried out to sea via runoff from our roads, rivers and drainpipes.

The solution is to prevent waste from entering rivers and seas in the first place. This could be accomplished with improved waste management systems and recycling, better product design and reduction in manufacturing of, for instance, unnecessary single-use plastics.

Luckily, over the last 50 years or so, we have become increasingly aware of the marine heritage in southern Africa, and of how fragile some of its components are. At the same time, there has been a change in attitude from one of plundering to one of preservation, and much of this is from our increased knowledge and understanding of how easy it is to decimate fish stocks, to hunt whales to the point of extinction, to destroy coral reefs by blasting and to degrade estuaries by siltation – and how difficult it is to restore them afterwards. If we are to enjoy the greatest benefit from our oceans in the future, we will need to conserve the sea and its life, and manage our own activities accordingly. We have a magnificent coastline richly endowed with marine life. Let’s keep it that way.

Why is waste management important?

Waste management is important as it saves the environment from the toxic effects of inorganic and biodegradable elements present in waste. Mismanagement of waste can cause water contamination, soil erosion and air contamination. Waste can be recycled if collected and managed efficiently.

The Shangoni team can help you with your waste risk management by systematically assessing and comparing the risks to human health and the environment.

The methodology as presently developed is oriented towards site-specific assessments of alternative treatment, storage, and disposal facilities.

It contains seven major steps:

1) Source assessment (hazard characterization)

2) Environmental transport and fate analysis

3) Exposure prediction

4) Health and environmental effects analysis

5) Adverse impact estimation and summation for exposed individuals and populations

6) Uncertainty analysis, and

7) Comparison of results.


Shangoni Management Services (Pty) Ltd offers a range of specialised services to assist our clients. Get in touch with us today via email info@shangoni.co.za or call our office on 012 807 7036 for more information and a free quote.

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