Plastics in the ocean are not stable and degrade when exposed to environmental forces, causing toxic substances to be released at a faster rate than previously thought. Plastics were traditionally understood to be virtually indestructible. However, a new study found that polystyrene, a ubiquitous plastic, begins to decompose within a year, releasing toxic substances bisphenoal A (BPA) and PS oligomer into the ocean. Both toxins disrupt hormones in animals and can have detrimental effects on reproductive systems. “We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future,” says lead researcher Katsuhiko Saido.