Microplastics (30 µm in diameter) found in toothpaste. Photo by Dantor (CC 3.0)

 

Last year, the dedicated folks over at NY/NJ Baykeeper conducted a plastic collection pilot study in NY-NJ Harbor Estuary waters, and the report (PDF download) is not good news.

Microplastics filtered from European rivers. The white lines represent 1 mm. Credit: Martin Wagner et al (CC 4.0)

 

Local waterways including the Passaic River, Newtown Creek, Newark Bay and the East River are choking on plastic pollutants – from tons of styrofoam to millions of microplastic beads that are smaller than a poppy-seed.

The amount of plastic polluting our waters is shocking, especially when you discover that a great deal of it is winding up in our food chain.

Known mechanisms of transport and integration of microplastics into biological communities as provided by current science. Credit: Mantareina (CC 4.0)

 

NY/NJ Baykeeper: Based on NY/NJ Baykeeper’s estimates, at least 165 million plastic particles are floating within NY-NJ Harbor Estuary waters at any given time. Approximately 85% of particles counted were microplastics (smaller than 5mm) and the most abundant type of plastic present in samples was foam (38%).

Microplastics intermingled with grains of sand. Credit: Oregon State University (CC 2.0)

 

Due to their size, aquatic creatures can mistake microplastic for food, harming their digestive systems and overall survival. Not only can fish ingest the plastic itself, but they also ingest pollutants that adhered to the plastic.

Microplastic contamination has been found in finfish and shellfish tissues, indicating that microplastics can enter aquatic and likely human food webs.

Download the full report here…

posted by Mai Armstrong for the Working Harbor Committee

 

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