The plastic peril inflicting our oceans is now so severe humans are ingesting particles of litter, a leading marine expert has warned.
The vast quantities of plastics which litter the UK's oceans are not only a real danger to sea life but could also threaten humans too, Paul Rose, the vice president of the Royal Geographical Society, has said.
Rose, who presented BBC Two's recent landmark series Oceans and is one of the UK’s most experienced deep sea divers and marine experts, has said that 70% of marine litter is plastic and that the vast majority of this waste comes from the land.
"We are in the midst of a mad out of control plastic consumption experiment," he told HuffPost UK Monday.
“The big question is just how far up the food chain this plastic waste will actually go," he said.
In a landmark BBC documentary airing tonight he will show that, as plastic waste breaks down in the sea, it is consumed by fish, shellfish and birds with often dire consequences.
Shockingly, he indicates that plastic could even be entering the human food chain.
"Plastic is everywhere in the world's oceans. When we take samples of water that show there are micro-pollutants of plastic, even in the waters of Antarctica – it must be in us."
"There are definitely people in the UK with plastic in them," he argued. "It's in our food chain for sure."
Rose warned "we must take responsibility," for our plastic waste, warning the situation could escalate dramatically.
"We are sitting on a time bomb,' he said. "It's definitely going to get worse if we do not take immediate action."
Measures are being taken to address the problem and new European directives being introduced in 2016 will mean that everyone will have to work hard to clean up our waters.
But a study in Newcastle has shown that, for some animals, this could come far too late.
Rose has highlighted the devastating effect that plastic waste is having on bird populations, performing an autopsy on a fulmar – one of the UK’s prize species which is closely related to the albatross – only to find a jagged piece of plastic in its stomach.
Jan Van Franeker leading the research in Newcastle says: “These larger items of plastic are ... horribly harming our seabirds as they lodge in their stomachs causing blockages which effectively slowly starve the birds to death.”
The programme will be broadcast on BBC One Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and BBC One North East and Cumbria tonight at 7.30pm.