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Marine Microplastic pollutants in the Mediterranean Sea endangering Lebanon’s Palm Islands Natural Reserve

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The Palm Islands Natural Reserve is declared as a protected site under the Barcelona Convention and by UNESCO. The islands populate endangered species of rabbits, monk seals, lizards, sea turtles and an exceptional species of painted lady butterfly. The natural reserve is a site for migrating birds, unique fauna, rich flora, water wells, and medicinal plants. It is just six nautical miles north the seashore of the second largest city in Lebanon, Tripoli, which has been recently featured with alarming levels of heavy metals, solid wastes and toxic chemical pollutants. Given the diversity and interconnectivity of pollutants present in Lebanon’s water sources and the massive use of plastics and chemical plasticizers; there is a substantial need for a holistic approach to the tackle this issue. Microplastics are particles that accumulate in marine environment and release phthalates. They are toxic hormone- disrupting chemicals, interfere with the male sex hormone, reduce female fertility and increase birth defects. These contaminants are poorly examined in marine environment and thus conceal our ability to fully understand their eco-toxicological impact. 

The research group of LAU Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Elias Akoury is undertaking actions to characterize and mitigate plastic pollution propagating through sea water in the Mediterranean Sea. Microplastic contamination has increased significantly in recent years because of the lack of oversight and poor governance by regulatory agencies, which resulted in the spread and acceleration of pollution of the water, soil and air compartments. These global contaminants are poorly examined in marine environment and thus conceal our ability to fully understand their eco- toxicological impact. A lack of effective garbage treatment infrastructure combined with uncontrolled industrial and household discharges in Lebanon is leading to the progressive deterioration of surface and sea water quality through elevated organic, inorganic, and complex contaminant environmental loading. In order to mitigate this problem, a range of issues must be addressed that go beyond treatment of traditional point- and nonpoint-source pollution parameters. After characterization and elucidation of the aquatic pollution landscape, the research team is working together to develop innovative and focused mitigation strategies to be demonstrated in the laboratory and subsequently scaled up and evaluated for full-scale implementation.


Photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash