Monterey Bay is a Natural Wonder Poisoned with Microplastic

Monterey Bay is a Natural Wonder Poisoned with Microplastic

SOURCE: Wired, LAist, and Nature DATE: June 6, 2019 SNIP: Monterey Bay is one of the most beautiful and pristine-looking places on earth, but look below the surface and researchers have found evidence it’s teeming with microplastic. The tiny pieces are smaller than a grain of rice and have been discovered floating through water columns as deep as 3,800 feet and in the guts and discharge of different sea creatures. Today in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, researchers present a torrent of horrifying findings about just how bad the plastic problem has become. For one, microplastic is swirling in Monterey Bay’s water column at every depth they sampled, sometimes in concentrations greater than at the surface of the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Two, those plastics are coming from land, not local fishing nets, and are weathered, suggesting they’ve been floating around for a long while. And three, every animal the researchers found—some that make up the base of the food web in the bay—were loaded with microplastic. “What we found was that microplastic is actually pretty pervasive,” said Anela Choy, lead author and assistant professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who was a postdoc with MBRI at the time. “We found microplastics in 100 percent of our water samples and 100 percent of our animal samples that we looked at,” she said. The researchers found the amount of microplastic captured at the surface is about the same as it is down at 3,200 feet. But between 650 and 2,000 feet, the counts skyrocket. Scientists have suspected that ocean plastics aren’t necessarily concentrated at the surface, contrary to...
People eat at least 50,000 plastic particles a year, study finds

People eat at least 50,000 plastic particles a year, study finds

SOURCE: The Guardian and Environmental Science and Technology DATE: June 5, 2019 SNIP: The average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity, according to the first study to estimate human ingestion of plastic pollution. The true number is likely to be many times higher, as only a small number of foods and drinks have been analysed for plastic contamination. The scientists reported that drinking a lot of bottled water drastically increased the particles consumed. Some of the best available data is on water, with bottled water containing 22 times more microplastic than tap water on average. A person who only drank bottled water would consume 130,000 particles per year from that source alone, the researchers said, compared with 4,000 from tap water. The health impacts of ingesting microplastic are unknown, but they could release toxic substances. Some pieces are small enough to penetrate human tissues, where they could trigger immune reactions. Microplastic pollution is mostly created by the disintegration of plastic litter and appears to be ubiquitous across the planet. Researchers find microplastics everywhere they look; in the air, soil, rivers and the deepest oceans around the world. They have been detected in tap and bottled water, seafood and beer. They were also found in human stool samples for the first time in October, confirming that people ingest the particles. The new research, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, took the data from 26 previous studies that measure the amounts of microplastic particles in fish, shellfish, sugar, salt, beer and water, as well as in the air in...
‘It’s Raining Plastic’: Researchers Find Microscopic Fibers in Colorado Rain Samples

‘It’s Raining Plastic’: Researchers Find Microscopic Fibers in Colorado Rain Samples

SOURCE: EcoWatch and USGS Report DATE: May 23, 2019 SNIP: When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics. The U.S. Geological Survey researcher had collected rain samples from eight sites along Colorado’s Front Range. The monitoring network was designed to track nitrogen trends, and Wetherbee, a chemist, wanted to trace the path of airborne nitrogen that is deposited in the national park. The presence of metals or organic materials like coal particles could point to rural or urban sources of nitrogen. He filtered the samples and then, in an inspired moment, placed the filters under a microscope, to look more closely at what else had accumulated. It was much more than he initially thought. In 90 percent of the samples Wetherbee found a rainbow wheel of plastics, mostly fibers and mostly colored blue. Those could have been shed like crumbs from synthetic clothing. But he also found other shapes, like beads and shards. The plastics were tiny, needing magnification of 20 to 40 times to be visible and they were not dense enough to be weighed. More fibers were found in urban sites, but plastics were also spotted in samples from a site at elevation 10,300 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. The findings are detailed in a report published online on May 14. Where did the plastic fibers come from? Are they locally produced, or carried from distant states or countries? How do they...
Winds carry microplastics ‘everywhere’ – even on to remote mountaintops

Winds carry microplastics ‘everywhere’ – even on to remote mountaintops

SOURCE: The Guardian and Nature DATE: April 15, 2019 SNIP: Microplastic is raining down on even remote mountaintops, a new study has revealed, with winds having the capacity to carry the pollution “anywhere and everywhere”. The scientists were astounded by the quantities of microplastic falling from the sky in a supposedly pristine place such as the French stretch of the Pyrenees mountains. Researchers are now finding microplastics everywhere they look; in rivers, the deepest oceans and soils around the world. About 335m tonnes of plastic is produced each year – while it degrades extremely slowly, it can be broken into smaller and smaller pieces. Microplastic pollution in rivers and oceans is now well known but just two previous studies have looked at its presence in the air, one in Paris, France, and another in Dongguan, China. Both found a steady fall of particles. The new study, published in Nature Communications, is the first to show microplastic is raining down just as hard in remote environments and that it can travel across significant distances through wind. The team collected samples from high altitudes in the Pyrenees that were far from sources of plastic waste – the nearest village was 6km away, the nearest town 25km, and the nearest city 120km. They found an average of 365 plastic particles, fibres and films were deposited per square metre every day. “It’s astounding and worrying that so many particles were found,” said Allen. “It is comparable to what was found in the centre of Paris and Dongguan, and those are megacities where a lot of pollution is expected,” said Deonie Allen, also at...
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...