By: Courtney Sheikh
Summary: Microplastics are small plastic pieces that have to be less than five millimeters long and can be harmful to ocean and aquatic life. Plastic can take 500 to 1000 years to break down. Plastic like this can come from household products to big corporations and many more sources. It also comes from larger pieces breaking down into smaller and smaller fragments from abrasion and sunlight over time. Microplastics can be more dangerous than full pieces of plastic since it is easier for aquatic life to ingest, birds also can mistake microplastics for food. Fish and birds ingest microplastics which can cause digestive and reproductive problems. This is the same aquatic life that is often eaten by humans. Microbeads are a type of microplastics; they are really small pieces of a different kind of plastic that are added into health and beauty products, like toothpastes and face scrubs. These tiny particles are the ones that are being seen pass through water filtration systems. There are many people who depend on the Great Lakes for their water source and they can be in danger of drinking contaminated water. Microbeads are not new and have been around since the 1960s, but there was an act banning them from personal care and cosmetics products in the United States in 2015. Health effects that are in correlation with consuming microbeads are still unknown. There are lots of plastics in the lakes. Even though lakes will not have a garbage patch like there is in the ocean, they do get plastics that get washed up on shore frequently. The Great Lakes are surrounded by many bodies of land. Therefore, plastics can also affect tourism and animals that are near shore getting food. Microplastics and microbeads are a problem. One way we can help is by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Why we should care? With microplastics there can be a negative impact on our food and fresh water supplies. At this point, we do not have the exact details on what can happen over a long period of microplastic consumption.
Example News Article:
This news article is very interesting simply because of the fact that this is in The Detroit News with research that is happening in a whole different state. This shows that with having a problem in waterways it does not just affect a small area but more so anyone that has access to the waterways. Microplastics have also been a problem we have been dealing with since the 1960s and do not have any research on how they affect us in water and food we consume. In this article it states there are lots of particles that come from washing machines that escape down the drain and make there way through the wastewater treatment plants. Not many know or even care about the amounts we pollute ourselves with just everyday usage of products.
Science in Action.
Phillip Schwabl is a research scientist and physician that specializes in intestinal diseases at the Medical University of Vienna.
Phillip Schawlb’s research is to examine human feces and see if there are microplastics to determine whether we involuntary ingest them. In his research there were 9 types out of 10 common microplastics detected in the stool. Future work of Phillip's is to determine what the impacts of microplastics are on the human intestinal tract. This is research that has not been done and we do not know the damage the plastics can do to our bodies, or if they do anything at all. These plastics are being ingested through our “clean” food and “fresh” water sources.