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.
It’s much harder to track the effects of the tens of thousands of chemicals that are dumped in the ocean every day, through sewage, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste—most of which have unknown effects on wild ecosystems. What we do know is that the bodies of marine animals act like magnets for these toxics, which accumulate in their fat and are amplified up the food chain.
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.
“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.
“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.
Since the beginning of April, Julia Parker has seen 216 sick pelagic birds come into the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. There were only four in February, and three in March. Of those 216, mostly loons, grebes, and murres, only 65 survived long enough to be transferred to the International Bird Rescue center in San Pedro. Many more have been found dead on nearby beaches.
Researchers have more than once warned of “dead zones” and toxic algal blooms as a consequence of changing climatic conditions. Ocean temperatures are increasing, and this in turn encourages a new set of biochemical processes.
Professor Hollibaugh and a colleague report in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that over the course of eight summers they measured peaks of nitrite, alongside massive increases in the numbers of the microorganisms that produce it, in coastal waters off Georgia.
The amphipods were contaminated with PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — toxic chemicals used for decades in industry, as well as other industrial pollutants known as persistent organic pollutants.
“Every sample we had,” Jamieson says, “had contaminants in it at very high or extraordinarily high levels.”