Can plastic marine debris harm animals?
Plastic has the potential to harm fish and other wildlife in two main ways.
Direct Impacts - Studies have shown that fish and other marine life eat plastic. Plastics could cause irritation or damage to the digestive system. If plastics are kept in the gut instead of passing through, the animal could feel full (of plastic not food) and this could lead to malnutrition or starvation.
Indirect Impacts - Plastic debris accumulates pollutants such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) up to 100,000 to 1,000,000 times the levels found in seawater. PCBs, which were mainly used as coolant fluids, were banned in the U.S. in 1979 and internationally in 2001. It is still unclear whether these pollutants can seep from plastic debris into the organisms that happen to eat the debris and very difficult to determine the exact source of these pollutants as they can come from sources other than plastic debris. More research is needed to help better understand these areas.