The world’s oceans are permeated with plastic waste, from surface waters to some of their deepest reaches. And we know from numerous studies that fish, turtles, seabirds and smaller sea creatures are ingesting bits of plastic when they feed. Now, scientists are starting to pin down the effects of a plastic diet.

Marine scientist Matthew Savoca explains findings from a recent study that identified a new illness, which the authors call plasticosis, in seabirds. Scarring in the birds’ digestive tracts resembles effects in humans who are longtime smokers or have been exposed to asbestos. As Savoca sees it, plasticosis “could be a sign that a new age of disease is upon us because of human overuse of plastics and other long-lasting contaminants, and their leakage into the environment.”

Also today:

Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Energy Editor

Scientists have identified a condition they call plasticosis, caused by ingesting plastic waste, in flesh-footed shearwaters. Patrick Kavanagh/Wikipedia

Seabirds that swallow ocean plastic waste have scarring in their stomachs – scientists have named this disease ‘plasticosis’

Matthew Savoca, Stanford University

Many marine animals, birds and fish are ingesting plastic. New research identifies the first named health effect from it.

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