More than 90% of the microplastics found were fibres and, among them, rayon (54%) and acrylic (24%) – both of which are commonly used in clothing – were the most abundant.
Rivers to the Sea
The area along the San Gabriel River, which borders Seal Beach and Long Beach, can be especially littered after it rains. The mouth of the river funnels runoff from 52 inland cities straight into the ocean, with trash and debris flowing down storm drains.
At a time when our 24 hour news cycle broadcasts little joy, the enthusiasm of the volunteers who came to do nothing but pick up other people’s trash and garbage, shed a certain kind of light to blot out all the negative headlines of the day. At our locale, most volunteers were locals— some partnered with a friend or family, and some represented local groups. Visitors from Livermore and San Jose, (both cities about 200 miles north of San Simeon) also joined in the effort to keep our wastes from slipping into the Pacific Ocean.
She says understanding how plastic gets into fish matters not just to the fish, but to us. “We eat fish that eat plastic,” she says. “Are there things that transfer to the tissue? Does the plastic itself transfer to the tissue? Do the chemicals associated with the plastic transfer to the tissue?”
“As discussed in the press release, there still remains a need to reduce the nutrient load entering the Gulf of Mexico and the smaller observed size was likely a result of storm and wind conditions and are not necessarily an indication of a long-term decrease in hypoxia area,” said Keeley Belva, a spokeswoman for the National Ocean Service.
The study, which took a “citizen science” approach to data collection, is the first of its kind in Switzerland. More than 150 trained volunteers participated. In total, they examined 95,971 pieces of litter collected on the shores of Swiss rivers and lakes.
Intensive agriculture near the Mississippi has led to fertilizers leeching into the river, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico, via soils and waterways. This has resulted in a huge oxygen-deprived dead zone in the Gulf that is now at its largest ever extent, covering an area greater than the state of New Jersey.
“Given their pervasive and persistent nature, microplastics have become a global environmental concern and a potential risk to human populations,” said Rachel Hurley from the University of Manchester and colleagues in their report, published in Nature Geoscience.