Microplastics found in 90 percent of table salt

Microplastics found in 90 percent of table salt

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: October 17, 2018 SNIP: Microplastics were found in sea salt several years ago. But how extensively plastic bits are spread throughout the most commonly used seasoning remained unclear. Now, new research shows microplastics in 90 percent of the table salt brands sampled worldwide. Of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics in them, according to a new analysis by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia. Using prior salt studies, this new effort is the first of its scale to look at the geographical spread of microplastics in table salt and their correlation to where plastic pollution is found in the environment. “The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region,” said Seung-Kyu Kim, a marine science professor at Incheon National University in South Korea. The new study, she says, “shows us that microplastics are ubiquitous.” The density of microplastics found in salt varied dramatically among different brands, but those from Asian brands were especially high, the study found. The highest quantities of microplastics were found in salt sold in Indonesia. Asia is a hot spot for plastic pollution, and Indonesia—with 34,000 miles (54,720 km) of coastline—ranked in an unrelated 2015 study as suffering the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world. The new study estimates that the average adult consumes approximately 2,000 microplastics per year through salt. What that means remains a...
Microplastics can spread via flying insects, research shows

Microplastics can spread via flying insects, research shows

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 19, 2018 SNIP: Microplastic can escape from polluted waters via flying insects, new research has revealed, contaminating new environments and threatening birds and other creatures that eat the insects. Scientists fed microplastics to mosquito larvae, which live in water, but found that the particles remained inside the animals as they transformed into flying adults. Other recent research found that half of the mayfly and caddisfly larvae in rivers in Wales contained microplastics. Concern over microplastic pollution is rising rapidly as it is discovered in ever more places, and very little research has been done on how it may harm wildlife or humans. The particles can harbour bacteria or leach toxic chemicals. Microplastics have been found in tapwater around the world, in vast numbers in the oceans and sea creatures and even in remote Swiss mountains. Callaghan said it is “highly likely” that other flying insects that begin as water larvae will also eat and retain microplastics. Birds, bats and spiders are among the species that eat large numbers of insects, suggesting these are also consuming microplastics. “You can get swarms of insects,” she said. “You could have a lot of plastic going up. It’s totally depressing. These plastics are going to be around forever.” Image: Fluorescent microplastics (bright green) are visible inside an adult mosquito. The particles can then spread to animals that eat the...
Tiny bits of plastic permeate our world

Tiny bits of plastic permeate our world

SOURCE: High Country News DATE: September 10, 2018 SNIP: TO THE EXTENT THAT most of us think about microplastics, we’re probably familiar with microbeads, the tiny plastic scrubbers that became common in face washes and toothpastes in the late 1990s. Following a surge in public awareness about the dangers microbeads pose when eaten by fish and other wildlife, Congress voted to ban them in personal care products beginning in 2017. But Danielle Garneau, an associate professor of environmental science at SUNY Plattsburgh who studies microplastics, says that microbeads never made up a large percentage of the microplastics she and her colleagues found in freshwater. A bigger culprit, she says, are plastic fibers. Head to any coffee shop in Bozeman on a wintry Saturday morning, and the problem is in plain sight. Fleece pullovers. Polypropylene leggings. Polyester hats. Globally, production of synthetic fibers — long, thin strands of plastics spun into threads much as wool is spun into yarn — more than doubled from 2000 to 2017. Today, roughly 58 percent of clothing is woven with them, including many technical outdoor fabrics. While these fabrics excel at keeping us warm and dry in the elements, they shed every time they’re washed: up to 250,000 plastic fibers per jacket, per wash cycle. IF FUTURE SCIENTISTS digging through layers of rock and sediment come upon the geologic strata being set down today, they’ll find a colorful stripe of earth atop the plain rock and dirt of the pre-industrial era. Since plastics first became widespread in the mid-20th century, more than 9 billion tons have been manufactured, most of which has been thrown...
Piling up: Drowning in a sea of plastic

Piling up: Drowning in a sea of plastic

SOURCE: CBS News DATE: August 5, 2018 SNIP: In the 1950s, a new material burst onto the scene that would change the world forever. Cheap, durable, sanitary, strong, and light. And today, there are literally thousands of raw categories of plastic, according to Fred Betke, founder of Delta Pacific Products, which makes plastic parts for medical instruments. The technical name is polypropylene, and all almost everything plastic starts out as pellets. They’re available in every color under the sun. After 65 years of making plastic, we’ve pretty much mastered the art. What we haven’t yet figured out is what to do with plastic once we’re done with it. “It lasts a really long time,” said Roland Geyer, professor of environmental science at UC Santa Barbara. “It doesn’t biodegrade. So, it just sits there.” Geyer has studied how much plastic we throw away. “We have statistics reaching all the way back to the dawn of plastic mass production, 1950. And if we add it all together, it’s 8.3 billion metric tons. So, if we take that and spread it out evenly over California, the entire state of California would be covered. And that would be an ugly sight.” “Every single year, somewhere between 5 and 12 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean,” Geyer said. “Plastic in the ocean has a tendency to break down into other smaller pieces. And these tiny pieces then get taken up even lower down in the food chain. So, we know that it ends up on our dinner plates.” Geyer says that as of 2017, the world recycles only about 9 percent...
Everyday Plastics Found To Emit Greenhouse Gas Pollution As They Degrade

Everyday Plastics Found To Emit Greenhouse Gas Pollution As They Degrade

SOURCE: IFLScience and BBC and PLOS One DATE: August 1, 2018 SNIP: The most commonly-produced plastics have been found to leach greenhouse gases (GHG) into the environment as they degrade. Until now, emissions from plastic products have not been accounted for in future climate predictions, according to a study published in PLOS One. Plastics used to make everything from food storage containers and textiles to construction materials and eyeglass lenses degrade naturally from environmental factors like light, heat, moisture, and chemical oxidization. When plastics physically change they also exhibit chemical changes that put methane and ethylene into the atmosphere, which can also have adverse effects on human health. Polyethylene used in plastic shopping bags was the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases and is also the most produced and discarded plastic in the world. Low-density polyethylene (LPDE) plastics used to make frozen food bags, shrink wrap, and coatings for milk cartons were found in the ocean and can increase over time. Once sunlight starts to decompose the plastic – a process called photo-degradation – emissions can continue even as the Sun starts to fade. When these plastics are further broken down or cracked, the study authors say the rate of gas production can further accelerate. Microplastics – smaller pieces of plastic particles found to move up the food chain and in nearly every corner of the world, including Antarctica – may further accelerate GHG production. What’s causing these emissions? In short it’s the Sun. Solar radiation acts on the surface of plastic waste. As it breaks down, becomes cracked and pitted, these defects increase the surface area of plastic available...