In the summer of 1988, debris washing up on Northeastern shores marred the beauty of our beaches and raised the specter of threats to public health caused by pollution. In the wake of these washups, the public in the Long Island Sound area began asking questions: what is this debris, where does it come from, and what are the health risks involved? As always, fact must be carefully sorted from fiction.
What Is It, and Where Does It Come From?
Material that washes up on the beach is called floatable marine debris, or simply “floatables”. Floatables are unique in that they are an aspect of water pollution that is readily visible to even the untrained eye. This type of pollution has been with us since the first castaway sent a message in a bottle, but only recently has it gained attention as a serious water quality problem. These days, bottles are joined by paper, wood, sewage, garbage and street litter, as well as the highly publicized plastic and medically-related items.
To view the full floatable debris fact sheet, download the pdf document