Each day, hundreds of pounds of used cosmetics, personal care products and old prescriptions are flushed down the toilet.
Before long, they make their way into Hawaii’s waters.
Watson Okubo has spent the past four decades responding to sewage spills and storm water runoff as the former supervisor with the state Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch. And he said the products pose a hidden danger to marine life in Hawaii.
He said unlike sewage spills that can dissipate after several weeks, the chemicals can disrupt reproductive cycles of fish and other marine life.
“We know some of these chemicals are endocrine-disrupting compounds that disrupt the reproductive cycle of fishes,” Okubo said.
“These discharges happen day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade."
So far, there's no definitive scientific study in Hawaiian waters that proves that chemicals in these medical and personal care products are harming ocean life. But Okubo said the U.S. Geological Survey has done studies on the mainland suggesting such a link.
Okubo believes there's plenty of anecdotal evidence here that indicates a connection.
"We're looking at our limu diversity in our coastal waters and that has really dropped down quite a bit. We don't see the long ogo anymore,” he said.
"We don't see the juvenile mullet jumping out of the water being chased by the papio."
He said the Clean Water Branch is now working with the USGS to develop a tracer system to track these chemicals in Hawaii's waters.But there's no cheap method of cleaning up these chemicals once they're in the water.
Okubo said he believes better disposal methods should be implemented to keep these toxics out of the ocean.