Experts say that known problem spots where heavy metals are associated with plastic are located on the coast of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. However, the results of the study are extremely important for planning resort areas in Russia and maintaining a high-quality environment for tourists.
In recent years, the attention of specialists in the field of geoecology has increasingly been drawn to environmental pollution by plastic particles. Human activity has already led to their widespread distribution in water and soil. These particles come in a wide variety of sizes, and while large pieces of plastic are clearly visible and can be collected along with regular trash, smaller particles are difficult to remove. Moreover, due to their microscopic size, you may not even be aware of their presence.
“Currently, the problem of plastic pollution has already become global. But many of its aspects remain almost unexplored. In particular, we are talking about the fact that heavy metals are often associated with these particles. And this can happen not only near any industrial production, but even in connection with the active development of tourism,” note the authors of the study.
Associate Professor of the Department of Physical Geography, Ecology and Nature Conservation of the Institute of Earth Sciences Anna Mikhailenko and Associate Professor of the Department of Technology and Organization of Service Activities of the Institute of Tourism, Service and Creative Industries Dmitry Ruban analyzed the data available in the literature on five heavy metals (cadmium, nickel, mercury, chromium , zinc) and their connection with plastic particles on the beaches of the seas and oceans. Each of these metals can pollute the environment and, when reaching certain concentrations, pose a danger to human health. The problem seems specific, but its relevance becomes clear if we imagine that, on the one hand, it is on the beaches that a large amount of plastic waste accumulates (including due to the irresponsibility of tourists), on the other hand, any pollution of the beaches is dangerous due to the concentration of people . For this study, original approaches to processing information from literary sources were developed.
Anna Mikhailenko conducts environmental research in the coastal zone Anna Mikhailenko conducts environmental research in the coastal zone
The study identified nearly two dozen places around the world where concentrations of heavy metals are associated with the accumulation of plastic particles on beaches. For each of the selected metals, maps were compiled showing such locations. Many of them are located on the coasts of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
“The beaches where chromium is associated with plastic are the most numerous, and mercury is the least abundant. In many cases, the danger of heavy metals associated with plastic for the environment and even human health has been noted. At the same time, the tourism and hospitality industry itself is quite capable of acting as a factor in the accumulation of hazardous substances, although, of course, not all plastic is associated with waste left by tourists,” say experts.
The fact is that the beach is a kind of natural barrier where various materials accumulate, carried away from the land or drawn by sea waves and currents. A review of existing information shows that heavy metals can either be initially associated with plastic, as impurities, or “attach” to it after entering the environment.
Some research results in the form of a collage. Some research results in the form of a collage.
The study made it possible for the first time to describe the global nature of the problem studied. In other words, scientists were able to draw attention to the scale of the new environmental challenge. Well-known “problem points,” fortunately, are located far beyond the borders of our country. However, the results of the study are undoubtedly important for planning resort areas in Russia in order to maintain a high-quality recreational environment for domestic tourists. The interdisciplinary nature of the study, devoted to issues of both ecology and tourism, once again emphasizes the effectiveness of the joint work of specialists from different structural divisions of the university. Thus, employees of the Department of Physical Geography, Ecology and Nature Conservation are actively conducting research in the field of geoecology, including sea coasts, and at the Department of Organization and Technologies of Service Activities, various approaches to providing services in the tourism and hospitality industry are being studied. Joining efforts contributes to the formulation and successful solution of fundamentally new scientific problems.
The study was carried out within the framework of the Priority 2030 program project (National Project “Science and Universities”). Its results are presented in the international scientific journal “Journal of Marine Science and Engineering” (category Q1).