Posts tagged with

microplastics

On a Mission to Research Microplastics in the Mississippi River

Posted Wed, 07/03/2019 - 12:45

The growing tide of plastic debris in our ocean is partially due to the steady discharge of plastic by our rivers that drain into the sea. Plastics materials enter waterways from rural and urbanized areas located near riverbanks, and then travel downstream with the flow. Plastic comes in a variety of sizes and includes both macroplastics (large enough to be seen with the naked eye) and microplastics (not easily seen with the naked eye and are about 5 mm in size; about the size of a pencil eraser).

Clean Water for our HOMES

Posted Fri, 03/22/2019 - 09:42

Today is World Water Day, a day to recognize that water is our most precious resource, needed by every single living thing on earth. In the Great Lakes, over 40 million people depend directly on HOMES (Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior) for drinking water. These lakes are the largest freshwater system on Earth and contain a fifth of the world’s water, adding up to more than 6 quadrillion gallons. Unfortunately, marine debris not only exists in our ocean, but can also be found in the Great Lakes and affect the quality of the water that we are drinking. Tiny plastics less than 5mm in size, called microplastics, dominate the waters of the Great Lakes. We don’t yet know how microplastics in our drinking water can affect human health, but we do know that preventing marine debris is a crucial step in improving the water quality of the Great Lakes.

The Smelly Science of Tracking the Movements of Microplastics

Posted Wed, 02/06/2019 - 08:24

Where does plastic go once it enters the ocean? This is a harder question to answer than it may seem. When we think of plastic pollution, most of us think of large pieces of plastic floating at the surface of the ocean, but that’s only a piece of the puzzle. Plastic can be found at every depth in the ocean. Some of that plastic does float, but some drifts underwater, and some sinks all the way down to the ocean floor. It is especially hard to keep track of the smallest pieces of plastic, microplastics less than 5mm in size. Recent research is revealing that those microplastics are being moved not just by currents and weather, but by animals through their digestive tracts.

The Ins and Outs of Plastic Pollution in our Ocean

Posted Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:00

Happy World Ocean Day! Today is a day to stop and think about our ocean, how it helps us (so many ways!), and what we can do to make sure it stays healthy. This year’s theme is plastic pollution. Unfortunately, our ocean faces many threats, one of which is marine debris. Marine debris is a major issue that impacts our ocean and consequently, impacts us.

Learn more about plastic pollution– the most prevalent form of marine debris– and how we can work together to keep our ocean plastic-free.

Microplastics & Megafauna

Posted Tue, 03/27/2018 - 11:00

By: Demi Fox, Northeast Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

We’re spending March talking all about marine debris and its types, sources, impacts, and solutions. Tune in throughout the month to learn more about this important topic and how we can all be part of the effort to make our lives and our ocean #DebrisFree.

Marine debris is a serious threat to marine animals. While large pieces of litter can have dramatic impacts on marine animals, less obvious are the dangers of plastics measuring less than five millimeters in size, known as “microplastics.” These small pieces of debris have quickly become a high research priority for scientists around the world. Microplastics enter the marine environment from a variety of sources: microbeads in cosmetics, microfibers washed from our clothing, and plastic fragments degraded by the sun, among many others. The threats they pose depend on their quantity, chemical composition, location in the ocean and the water column, and availability for ingestion. Despite its small size, microplastic debris is affecting some of the planet’s largest animals.

Microplastic Pollution: A complex mixture of diverse polymers, shapes and sizes

Posted Thu, 01/25/2018 - 11:00

By: Chelsea M. Rochman, Guest Blogger and Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto

The microplastics literature is growing at a tremendous rate. Every day, new studies are published about their sources, fate, and effects. There is no longer any doubt that microplastics of all shapes, sizes, and types contaminate diverse ocean habitats and animals. We also understand much more about the effects of microplastics on organisms than we did just a few years ago. Still, there are research gaps to fill. As part of a project funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program, we set out to answer questions related to these research gaps. We examined whether environmentally-relevant concentrations of different types of microplastics directly affect freshwater prey and indirectly affect their predators. Check out the results which were just published.

Quantifying Microplastics on National Park Beaches

Posted Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:00

By: Dr. Stefanie Whitmire, Guest Blogger and Research Scientist at the Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology & Forest Science, Clemson University

Microplastics are plastic pieces measuring less than five millimeters in size and in recent decades, there have been many studies that indicate a strong presence of this type of debris in marine and coastal environments. Microplastics can come from a variety of sources. Some microplastics are manufactured at that small size as microbeads, found in products like toothpaste and facial scrubs, or pellets, which are used to make larger plastic items. Microfibers, another type of microplastic debris, come from synthetic items such as rope or clothing (like fleece). Microplastics also come from the breakdown of larger plastic pieces, such as water bottles and fishing line. To investigate the number and distribution of microplastics on National Park beaches across the Unites States, researchers at Clemson University collaborated with the National Park Service to collect and analyze sand from 37 coastal National Parks.

Wastewater Treatment Plants and Marine Debris

Posted Tue, 04/25/2017 - 11:00

By: Matthew Coomer, Intern with the NOAA Marine Debris Program

You may not think about wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) very often, but you use them every day. In fact, they are essential to protecting our health and the environment; WWTPs change our sewage into clean water that can safely re-enter rivers and the ocean. These facilities are complex, but to simplify, they filter solid material out of wastewater, allow microorganisms to feed on the organic matter that’s left behind, and then kill any dangerous bacteria. Whenever you use water at home or in your community, you use your local WWTP. Unfortunately, while these treatment plants are very good at their job, they may also be point sources of a persistent type of marine debris— microplastics.

Detecting Microplastics in the Marine Environment krista.e.stegemann Thu, 03/23/2017 - 11:30

Microplastics are a type of plastic marine debris that are less than five millimeters in size. Research on this type of debris has become more widespread, but since there is no single agreed-upon method for separating, counting, and weighing microplastics in water samples, it is difficult to compare results across studies. Common approaches may be used, but most laboratories develop their own procedures based on factors such as budget, equipment availability, labor, and the specific research questions being asked.

Since so many different protocols are being used, the NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered with researchers at the University of Washington Tacoma to compare different methodologies.  

The President Signs a National Microbead Ban

Posted Wed, 12/30/2015 - 14:04

On Monday, December 28th, President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 into law. This new law bans plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products, requiring companies to stop manufacturing products that contain them. Microbeads are tiny plastic beads that have commonly been added as abrasives to health and beauty products such as exfoliating face washes and toothpastes, and are designed to wash down the drain. Congress’ swift passage of this legislation is reflective of a growing movement to ban microbeads at the state level– in 2015 alone, 47 bills to ban microbeads were introduced in 25 state legislatures and nine were signed into law.