The world’s sea creatures have enough to worry about with human overpopulation and the accompanying pollution. But, for a quarter century now, they’ve had to contend with a miniscule plague known as Legos.
On February 13, 1997, a rogue wave ambushed a cargo ship known as Tokio Express and caused millions of the demonic toy pieces to plunge into the water. Out of the 4,756,940 Lego pieces on board, about 3,178,807 were light enough to float and have been polluting beaches across the North Atlantic – mostly around Great Britain – ever since. Ironically many of the pieces were nautical-themed, but that’s of no comfort to aquatic wildlife that have occasionally ingested the items.
While people have been collecting many of the Legos that wash up onto shorelines, scientists have used the calamity to study the impact plastic has on the world’s oceans.
Plastic can take years – perhaps centuries – to degrade in water, and releases a variety of chemicals as it deteriorates; chemicals that can disrupt oceanic ecosystems by disrupting the reproductive systems of some animals.
A 2020 study by Environmental Pollution found that, upon analyzing the structure of Legos with X-ray fluorescence, it could take up to 1,300 years for all of the pieces to degrade completely.
If there’s any proof that human birth control on a wide scale is necessary, this is it!
Top image: A.J.B. Lane
Bottom image: BBC News