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Science
COSTING THE EARTH
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Thursday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Friday 15:00
Costing the Earth tells stories which touch all our lives, looking at man's effect on the environment and at how the environment reacts. It questions accepted truths, challenges the people in charge and reports on progress towards improving the world we live in.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 8 December
PRESENTER
TOM HEAP
Tom Heap
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Thursday 8 December 2006
Tom on a beach
Tom picks up a handful of 'mermaids' tears' on the beach at North Queensferry

Mermaids Tears
New research shows that plastic fragments are to be found everywhere in our oceans.   Samples taken from around the world show the presence of tiny particles of plastic, otherwise known as Mermaids Tears.  These plastics will remain in the environment possibly for hundreds of years.
We've all seen the detritus washed up on our beaches - the plastic bottles, bits of old fishing net and string, cotton bud sticks, plastic bags - things thrown overboard or dumped on land.  Either way it ends up in the sea.  But until now we've hardly been aware of the unseen effects of that plastic rubbish, what happens when it breaks down into tiny particles and sinks to the seabed.  In the first of a new series of Costing the Earth, Tom Heap discovers the true extent of the plastic plague in our oceans and asks how harmful if may be to marine wildlife.
Charles Moore is the American sailor who broke the news to the world in 1997 that there are now hundreds of miles of floating plastic rubbish in the Pacific Ocean.  The Eastern Garbage Patch as it's become known is a popular feeding place for albatrosses and sea turtles.  Thousands of them die each year after mistakenly consuming plastic or feeding it to their young.  In total over 260 marine species worldwide have been found to have eaten plastic, and although it doesn't always kill them immediately, it weakens them.  Consequently whole species are now under threat.  But it's taken the work being done by Dr. Richard Thompson at the University of Plymouth to highlight the potentially toxic effects of the microscopic particles of plastic that are ingested by the smallest sea creatures.  As yet, this science is in its infancy, but there are some worrying signs as we come to terms with the environmental legacy that plastic is creating
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