What do seals, otters and golf balls have in common?

August 27, 2019

Californian high-schooler, Alex! ⁣⠀
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While snorkeling in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California, Alex and her friend had repeatedly come across large numbers of golf balls on the ocean floor. Golf balls sink, so they don’t become eyesores and as a result, the issue had gone largely unnoticed. But Alex had stumbled across something big: a source of marine debris – one that comes from a single, identifiable place – polluting federally protected waters. Alex contacted Matthew Savoca, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University after reading his scientific papers, and subsequently published a study detailing the scope of this pollutant and some ways in which it could affect marine life.⁣⠀
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In total, Alex, her dad & friends, collected 50,681 golf balls from the shoreline and shallow waters. Modern golf balls are made of a polyurethane elastomer and a synthetic rubber core. Manufacturers add zinc oxide, zinc acrylate and benzoyl peroxide to the solid core for flexibility and durability. These substances are acutely toxic to marine life. No ill effects on local wildlife have been documented to date but as the balls degrade and fragment at sea, they may leach chemicals and microplastics into the water or sediments.⁣⠀
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Thanks to Alex, we now know that golf balls erode at sea over time, producing dangerous microplastics that fish, birds or other animals may ingest. Initially, golf course managers were surprised by the findings, but they are working with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to address the problem.⠀
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Inspired? This was a case of relentless work and dedication; let’s all do this!⠀

Source: The Conversation