Microplastic pollution revealed ‘absolutely everywhere’ by new research

Microplastic pollution revealed ‘absolutely everywhere’ by new research

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 7, 2019 SNIP: Microplastic pollution spans the world, according to new studies showing contamination in the UK’s lake and rivers, in groundwater in the US and along the Yangtze river in China and the coast of Spain. Humans are known to consume the tiny plastic particles via food and water, but the possible health effects on people and ecosystems have yet to be determined. One study, in Singapore, has found that microplastics can harbour harmful microbes. The new analysis in the UK found microplastic pollution in all 10 lakes, rivers and reservoirs sampled. More than 1,000 small pieces of plastic per litre were found in the River Tame, near Manchester, which was revealed last year as the most contaminated place yet tested worldwide. Even in relatively remote places such as the Falls of Dochart and Loch Lomond in Scotland, two or three pieces per litre were found. “It was startling. I wasn’t expecting to find as much as we did,” said Christian Dunn at Bangor University, Wales, who led the work. “It is quite depressing they were there in some of our country’s most iconic locations. I’m sure Wordsworth would not be happy to discover his beloved Ullswater in the Lake District was polluted with plastic.” Microplastics have been shown to harm marine life when mistaken for food and were found inside every marine mammal studied in a recent UK survey. They were revealed in 2017 to be in tap water around the world and in October to be consumed by people in Europe, Japan and Russia. Research by the National University of Singapore...
Microplastics and synthetic particles ingested by deep-sea amphipods in six of the deepest marine ecosystems on Earth

Microplastics and synthetic particles ingested by deep-sea amphipods in six of the deepest marine ecosystems on Earth

SOURCE: The Royal Society DATE: February 27, 2019 SNIP: While there is now an established recognition of microplastic pollution in the oceans, and the detrimental effects this may have on marine animals, the ocean depth at which such contamination is ingested by organisms has still not been established. Here, we detect the presence of ingested microplastics in the hindguts of Lysianassoidea amphipod populations, in six deep ocean trenches from around the Pacific Rim (Japan, Izu-Bonin, Mariana, Kermadec, New Hebrides and the Peru-Chile trenches), at depths ranging from 7000 m to 10 890 m. This illustrates that microplastic contaminants occur in the very deepest reaches of the oceans. Over 72% of individuals examined (65 of 90) contained at least one microparticle. The number of microparticles ingested per individual across all trenches ranged from 1 to 8. A subsample of microfibres and fragments analysed using FTIR were found to be a collection of plastic and synthetic materials (Nylon, polyethylene, polyamide, polyvinyl alcohol, polyvinylchloride, often with inorganic filler material), semi-synthetic (rayon and lyocell) and natural fibre (ramie). Notwithstanding, this study reports the deepest record of microplastic ingestion, indicating that anthropogenic debris is bioavailable to organisms at some of the deepest locations in the Earth’s oceans. The results of this study demonstrate that man-made fibres including microplastics are ingested by lysianassoid amphipods at the deepest location of all the Earth’s oceans. This study reports the deepest record of microplastic ingestion, indicating it is highly likely there are no marine ecosystems left that are not impacted by plastic...
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...