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EPA to assess hazards of plastic pollution on Tern Island, Hawaii.

In response to a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, the EPA has agreed to take a historic first step toward classifying a tiny Hawaiian coral island, Tern Island, as a Superfund site because of hazards posed by plastic pollution. The Center's petition requested that the agency conduct a preliminary assessment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and a portion of the enormous Pacific Garbage Patch within U.S. waters.

This is the first time the agency has considered using Superfund to address an area contaminated by plastic; it will be conducting studies on Tern Island, a remote airstrip and one of the largest tropical seabird rookeries in the world. In particular, the agency will focus on the toxicity threats posed by plastic debris to wildlife that inhabits the area.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, whose reefs and shores are deluged by plastic debris, have long been a haven for marine wildlife. Designated Papahanaumokuakea National Monument in 2006, this 1,200-mile chain of scattered islands and atolls is home to more than 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The Pacific Garbage Patch is a swirling mass of litter in the Pacific Ocean, larger than the state of Texas.

Plastic debris kills or injures thousands of seabirds, marine mammals and turtles every year. Plastic is also a source of toxic chemicals that, after being consumed by fish and birds, move up the food chain to bigger fish and marine mammals.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

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Publication:Hazardous Waste Superfund Alert
Date:Nov 22, 2013
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