As if there wasn't enough to worry about with all the trash getting dumped in the ocean, it turns out the pollution in the air is also harming sea life.
Shocking, we know.
A new study from Cornell found that there's metal in our atmosphere and it's finding its way into the seas because of precipitation. The particles can be distributed into the air by volcanoes, wildfires and desert dust, as well as fossil fuel burning.
When the metal gets into the water, it can have a huge impact on the ecosystem.
According to the Cornell study, some metal pieces sink, littering the seafloor with toxins. Other metal particles are absorbed into the water or eaten by phytoplankton and bacteria, which then works the toxins up the food chain.
As Cornell noted, these microscopic sea organisms comprise 80 percent of marine life and promote circulation of nutrients through the sea. If they're now also circulating metal particles from our air, that can quickly poison the whole ocean.
Some metal material in the sea is necessary. Cornell noted that iron, for example, is critical to sea survival.
But other materials can be toxic.
According to Environmental Technology, this atmospheric distribution of metals isn't necessarily enough to outright kill, but it does drastically affect the ocean. The outlet reported that it can diminish reproduction and weaken sea life over time.
Mercury deposition, for example, has tripled in surface waters in recent years, per Science magazine. Not only does that then poison fish; it can also harm those that eat the fish, including large creatures like whales, dolphins, seals, sharks and humans.
The fact that the air contains contaminates is especially concerning because it can carry those toxins to remote locations, according to the Cornell study. Even if they're untouched by human traffic, they can be affected by our toxins.
It's pretty doom and gloom to learn all this stuff day after day, but it actually is important to know it. Only then can we understand exactly what we're up against to try and stop it. You can't combat the unknown.