Last month, the Washington Post published a piece on the presence of microplastics in waters all across the globe. The article featured the work of scientist Abby Barrows at Adventure Scientists, who has been collecting water samples from citizens to document the presence of microplastics.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the levels of plastic waste in our oceans. Marine birds and animals are susceptible to ingesting or strangling on large pieces of debris. What scientists are now discovering is that many of our waters have microscopic levels of plastics in them. While these microplastics pose different hazards than plastic debris, marine species could equally be as threatened. More studies need to be conducted, but there is preliminary evidence that ingesting microplastics has a negative impact on the eating habits and growth rates of marine species. Microplastics can come from a number of sources, including clothing and cosmetics. The US has already introduced a ban on microbeads in cosmetic products, with microbeads set to be phased out by 2019. However, the synthetic fibers used in the production of many of clothes (particularly fleeces), shed microplastics when washed.
Microplastics have been found throughout the world’s oceans. The Adventure Scientists are looking into how widespread pollution is. Their website features a map of all the places and watersheds where microplastics have been detected so far. I encourage you to check it out and see where there are gaps. If you plan on travelling, or if you live in an area where samples would be needed, all you have to do is sign up, read through the procedures, and take a short quiz in order to participate in sampling. They’re particularly interested in freshwater at the moment.
As G2 was already scheduled to sample in Antipoison Creek and Indian Creek earlier in November, we signed up to sample for microplastics as well. The results take about 6 to 8 weeks to come back, so we will be sure to share them as they become available!