Since the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, the ocean and its relationship to human health have gushed into popular consciousness. Certainly, that heightened awareness is a silver lining (or is it an oily sheen?) on a social and ecological disaster that deepens by the day.
But as Stanford marine biologist Stephen Palumbi, PhD, points out in this TED talk - which, for lack of mention, was presumably filmed before oil started flowing in the Gulf - the human impact on ocean health extends far beyond the occasional catastrophe.
Our everyday consumption and usage habits (agriculture being a notable culprit) overload the ocean with heavy metals, dioxin and PCBs, which biomagnify as they move up through the food chain. A few results? Dolphin meat, pedaled as whale meat in Japan, with 200 to 400 times the toxic load allowed by the EPA; Inuit mothers whose diet of seal and whale meat has rendered their breast milk unfit for infants; bacterial and viral blooms that cause infections and disease outbreaks; and beach closings.
As Palumbi puts it, "If the ocean ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."