Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

April 17, 2019 by  
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A new study published in Nature Communications reveals alarming amounts of microplastic particles in the air, even in the most remote, mountainous areas. News about microplastics throughout the ocean, soil and every marine mammal studied has been widely documented and publicized in recent years. ‘Microplastic’ was even called the “2018 word of the year” for its number of mentions by the news media. However, very few studies have researched the abundance of microplastics specifically in the air we breathe. In addition to the recently published research, two previous studies analyzed airborne microplastics in France and China. Those analyses from 2016 and 2017 revealed a steady rainfall of microplastics in the air — findings that are unfortunately further confirmed by the results of this most recent study. Related: Microplastics have made their way into human poop The authors counted 365 plastic particles falling per square meter, every day, with comparable results from Paris to isolated areas of the Pyrenees mountains. The researchers concluded that the amount of microplastics is correlated with the strength of the wind, but not necessarily with proximity to major urban areas or even villages. The fact that plastic particles are found so far from urban areas and direct sources of pollution indicates that the world’s plastic crisis is not a localized issue, but a global problem that affects everyone, regardless of their location or sustainable habits. The new findings are a major public health concern. The vast majority of the plastic particles identified were polystyrene and polyethylene — toxic materials often used in single-use packaging and plastic bags. Microplastics have also been found in human lung tissue, but scientists are still unsure of exactly what impacts this could have on long-term human health. “When you get down to respiratory size particles, we don’t know what those do,” research team member Deonie Allen told The Guardian . “That is a really big unknown.” + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Microplastic rain: new study reveals microplastics are in the air

Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine

April 8, 2019 by  
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Microfiber is a word that many of us have grown familiar with, as it is listed on many clothing descriptors. Only recently connected with the term microfiber is the knowledge that the miniscule particles wash off of our clothing and into our waterways with each load of laundry. Seeing the problem, Cora Ball offers a solution that traps those errant microfibers before they escape down the water drain. As common as the phrase is, many people don’t know that microfiber is actually a tiny synthetic fiber. In fact, it is so tiny that it measures less than 1/5 the diameter of a human hair. So millions of microfibers are in each article of clothing. Note that microfiber can also be labeled as polyester, nylon, Kevlar, Nomex, trogamid, polyamide, polypropylene and more. Related: If you eat seafood, you’re probably eating fleece microfibers Without being able to see the microfibers it’s difficult to inform consumers about their dangers. It’s not as visual as plastic water bottles lying alongside the road. However, if you replace the term microfiber with microplastic you can see how plastics get flushed into the water system. Once the microplastic travels to the ocean, aquatic animals come into contact with it. Sadly, the simple act of washing your clothes is detrimental to sea life and how it makes its way back to our table. Simply put, that means the fish we eat are now loaded with plastic particles that we can’t see. Take, for example, your favorite sweatshirt. If it lists any form of  microfiber on the label, you’re flushing tens to hundreds of thousands of microplastics down the drain with each washing of that item alone. This has resulted in innumerable microplastics in the ocean. Enter the Cora Ball. After researching the natural filtering abilities of coral in the sea , the team designed the Cora Ball with the ability to collect microfibers in each load. This allows the microplastic to accumulate into visible fuzz that can be kept from going down the drain. With this in mind, the company estimates that “If 10% of US households use a Cora Ball, we can keep the plastic equivalent of over 30 million water bottles from washing into our public waterways every year. That is enough water bottles to reach from New York City to London.” In conjunction with the goal of sustainability , the Cora Ball is made from diverted or recycled, and completely recyclable, rubber. It is suitable for all types of washing machines and has proven durability with an expected life cycle of over five years. With its innovative design , ease of use, effectiveness, and focus on environmental improvement, the Cora Ball has received the following acknowledgements: Finalist for the Ocean Exchange’s Neptune Award Part of the 2016 Think Beyond Plastic cohort Innovation Stage of 2016 Our Ocean Conference, Washington D.C. Finalist Launch Vermont 2018 Cohort Finalist Vermont Female Founders Start Here Challenge 2018 +Cora Ball Images via Cora Ball

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Cora Ball emulates natural filtering of coral to remove toxic microfibers from your washing machine

Grocery giant ALDI announces 100% sustainable packaging by 2025

April 8, 2019 by  
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This week, supermarket chain ALDI pledged to offer 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging on all of their products by 2025. In a press statement released early this month, the company outlined their specific goals to reduce plastic packaging throughout their stores over the next five years. ALDI is a major grocery chain with 1,800 stores across 35 states. They serve more than 40 million customers every month and are in the position to make a huge impact on the products that Americans consume, as well as the packaging they receive items in and promptly throw out. The grocery giant has a long standing commitment to sustainability, and CEO Jason Hart explains their decision to step-up efforts to combat the global plastic pollution crisis. Related: New York vows to ban plastic bags statewide in 2020 “ALDI has never offered single-use plastic shopping bags. And while we’re pleased that we’ve helped keep billions of plastic grocery bags out of landfills and oceans, we want to continue to do more. The commitments we’re making to reduce plastic packaging waste are an investment in our collective future that we are proud to make.” ALDI’s press release also states: “In 2018, ALDI recycled more than 250,000 tons of materials, including paper, cardboard, plastic and metal. Through this recycling effort, ALDI avoided the greenhouse gas equivalent of 8,094,533 gallons of gasoline.” Approximately 90 percent of all products sold in ALDI are produced and packaged exclusively for ALDI. As the sole customer, the chain has incredible power to dictate how manufacturers package, ship and present their items. However, just because the packaging is recyclable does not mean that customers will recycle it. While ALDI’s immense step forward shows remarkable growth, in order for the grocery store’s ambitious sustainability plan to be successful it ultimately relies on awareness, support and action from millions of customers. Via Treehugger Image via Mike Mozart

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Arctic sea ice is filled with record levels of microplastics

April 25, 2018 by  
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Even the Arctic can’t escape plastic pollution . Scientists gathered ice samples from five distinct regions in the Arctic Ocean , and some of those samples contained over 12,000 microplastic particles per liter of ice – a record-breaking amount. All told, they uncovered 17 different kinds of plastic , including paints and packaging. A team of 9 scientists at Alfred Wegener Institute recorded record levels of microplastics, or plastic fragments between a few micrometers to under five millimeters big, in sea ice collected in the Arctic. They gathered these samples aboard the research icebreaker Polarstern in 2014 and 2015. They utilized a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer to scrutinize the ice samples layer by layer to light up microparticles; particles reflect varying wavelengths depending on their ingredients so the scientists could determine their substances. Related: New study reveals plastic pollution in the Antarctic is 5x worse than expected Their methods helped them discover minuscule particles. Scientist Gunnar Gerdts, who runs the laboratory where the researchers carried out measurements, said in a statement , “In this way, we also discovered plastic particles that are tiny 11 microns in size. This is roughly a sixth of the diameter of human hair and was also the key reason why, with more than 12,000 particles per liter of sea ice, we were able to detect two to three times higher plastic concentrations than was the case in a previous study.” 67 percent of the particles in the ice samples fell in the 50 micrometers and below category: the smallest one. Biologist Ilka Peeken said, “We found out in our study that more than half of the microplastic particles trapped in the ice were smaller than one-twentieth of a millimeter and thus easily eaten by Arctic microorganisms such as crayfish, but also copepods.” This is concerning, she said, because “so far no one can say to what extent these tiny plastic particles harm the sea dwellers or end up even endangering humans.” The journal Nature Communications published the research this week. + Alfred Wegener Institute + Nature Communications Images via Tristan Vankaan , Mar Fernandez , and Stefan Hendricks

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The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations

April 25, 2018 by  
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Just weeks after this year’s March for Science ,  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is taking a shot at science — “secret science,” in his words . Pruitt recently proposed a rule that would limit the kinds of research the agency could draw on in crafting regulations. Reuters described the move as “an apparent concession to big business” which has angled for the restrictions for a long time. Pruitt’s proposal would mean the EPA wouldn’t be able to use scientific research based on confidential data. That means the agency would only be able to draw on studies that make all their data publicly available for everyone to scrutinize, according to NPR . The administrator said in a statement, “The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end. The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of rulemaking process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.” The EPA’s statement said the proposal is consistent with scientific journals like Nature and Science ‘s data access requirements. Related: Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science But some scientists are worried — the move could place crucial data off limits. NPR quoted Sean Gallagher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science ‘s senior government relations officer, as saying, “Our concern with this is they are quite literally limiting the best available science that can be used by the EPA.” Epidemiological studies are often utilized in the agency’s regulatory decisions, and Gallagher said, “Those studies involve people like you and me, signing confidentiality agreements that the scientists doing the studies won’t reveal my personal health information, like my vital statistics, or my death certificate, if I die during the course of the study. This is the kind of science that the EPA relies on, whether it looks at chemicals or particulates and their mortality or health effects. It involves private data.” The proposal won’t enter into force yet; Reuters said there will be a 30-day comment period and the proposal would need to be finalized. + Environmental Protection Agency Via Reuters and NPR Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and NRDC pix on Flickr

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Microplastic pollution poses particular threat to filter-feeding rays, sharks and whales

February 6, 2018 by  
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Microplastics pose a huge threat to aquatic life, particularly large filter feeders such as whale sharks, manta rays, and baleen whales . A new study by an international team of researchers led by the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) and Murdoch University identifies risks faced by these marine giants from an insidious form of plastic pollution known as microplastics. Filter feeders are at particular risk because of their constant sifting through ocean water to capture their micro-plankton prey. These large creatures play an important role in oceanic ecosystems and huge problems in the food chain could arise if they were to become threatened or even extinct due to escalating threats. While much remains unknown about the specific impacts of ingesting microplastics, evidence suggests that plastic ingestion, whether directly or through eating animals that have consumed plastics, can lead to toxicity in fish and birds. The effects on large, filter feeders is even less understood, a knowledge gap that the study authors urgently sought to address. “Understanding the effects of microplastic pollution on filter-feeding megafauna is imperative because nearly half of the mobulid rays, two-thirds of filter-feeding sharks , and over one quarter of baleen whales are listed by the IUCN as globally threatened species and prioritized for conservation,” wrote the study authors . Related: Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste Incorporating a review of data from related research, the new study identifies microplastic “hotspots,” such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Bengal, the Coral Triangle, and the Mediterranean Sea , as areas where filter feeders gather in high numbers likely due to plentiful food sources. This unfortunate confluence of plankton and plastic pollution has led to filter feeders consuming significant amounts of microplastics, with fin whales estimated to consume up to 2,000 plastic particles per day. While a greater understanding of the problem is helpful, this new research also emphasizes the sorely needed action needed to prevent further harm from plastic pollution to ocean life, large and small. Via IFLScience Images via Depositphotos (1)

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"Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked"

December 20, 2017 by  
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Mussels might serve as a global “bioindicator of microplastic pollution ,” Chinese researchers suggested last year, as the creatures remain in the same area and reside on the seabed where plastic ends up. And a new study from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) uncovered plastic in 76.6 percent of individual blue mussels they tested. Reuters pointed to other surveys where researchers found microplastics in mussels near China, Belgium, Britain, Canada, and Chile. NIVA Researcher Amy Lusher told Reuters, “Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked.” The new NIVA research found on average 1.8 pieces of microplastic in mollusks near Norway, while and mussels living in waters thought to be pristine in the Arctic actually had the greatest amount of plastic among any of the creatures tested near the Norwegian coast. Lusher said ocean currents and winds from American and Europe may be sweeping plastic north, where it might then swirl in the Arctic Ocean. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain Scientists aren’t quite sure how microplastics in marine life will impact humans that consume them, but think you’d have to eat a whole lot of shellfish to be at risk. Microplastics expert and Plymouth University professor Richard Thompson told Reuters of the global discoveries, “It’s a warning signal that we need to do something about reducing the input of plastic to the ocean. It’s a cause for concern at the moment rather than an alarm story for human consumption.” You can check out the NIVA report here . Via Reuters and Norwegian Institute for Water Research Images via Janne Kim Gitmark, NIVA and NIVA

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"Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked"

Scientists call for a worldwide ban on the ‘global hazard’ of glitter

December 4, 2017 by  
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You know microbeads are terrible for the planet, but have you ever considered the environmental impact of glitter? The ubiquitous party supply is made up of tiny plastic particles , and are every bit as bad as microbeads, which have been banned in many places across the world. Now, scientists say that it’s time to ban the glittery stuff as well. Microplastics make their way from waterways and landfills into the ocean, where sea life consumes it. Fish have been found to actively seeking out plastics , mistaking it for food, and a third of fish in the UK contain plastics. This is not only deadly for wildlife, but it could be dangerous for humans who consume fish as well. Related: Microplastics are killing fish faster than they can reproduce Glitter has become more and more common, appearing in cosmetics , clothing, and bath products, (not to mention the trend of putting on beards and hair) in addition to the party supply aisle. Scientists say that it should be treated like microbeads since it is essentially no different when it comes to the environment, and are calling for a ban. Via Fox Images via Deposit photos and Unsplash

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Antony Gibbon’s Helix House is a twisting tiny home that towers amidst the forest

December 4, 2017 by  
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Designer Antony Gibbon is known for his nature-inspired designs , each of which is more jaw-dropping than the last. His latest masterpiece is the Helix House – a beautiful twisting tower clad in wooden slatted beams that seamlessly blends into the forest. At just 100 square feet, the home is tiny, but the majestic design is straight out of a fairy tale. Like all of Gibbons’ designs, the Helix House was inspired by nature. The rising twisted form allows the structure blend in quietly with the surrounding forestscape. Clad in wooden beams, the home’s design is not only gorgeous, but the unique shape was also strategic to hiding all the structural support and access into the low-impact home. Related:Antony Gibbon’s Lucent House is a serene minimalist retreat made of glass and stone A tiny home in tower form, the one-bedroom home is less than 100 square feet. On the inside, the first floor has a kitchenette and a small bathroom. The second floor houses the bedroom, which has a beautiful glazed wall that provides natural light and stellar views of the surrounding environment. + Antony Gibbon Designs Images via Antony Gibbon Designs

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Antony Gibbon’s Helix House is a twisting tiny home that towers amidst the forest

Now There’s Microplastic Pollution in the Great Lakes Too

November 29, 2012 by  
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Plastic pollution on Bicaz Lake in Romania for illustrative purposes only, Shutterstock Swirling plastic pools as large as countries have long collected in our oceans , but now researchers have found that the Great Lakes face a similar problem, Discovery reports. While on a recent outing with students, environmental chemist Sherri Mason wondered whether plastic might be floating in the world’s largest freshwater system, so she and other researchers returned with a large trawl and a mesh net that traps anything larger than one third of a millimeter. They took 21 samples from Lakes Superior, Erie and Huron, which revealed that in some places there are up to 650,000 bits of plastic in a square kilometer. Read the rest of Now There’s Microplastic Pollution in the Great Lakes Too Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Environment , Erie , Food Chain , great lakes , Gyres , Huron , Lake Superior , Microplastic , News , plastic pollution , science , Sherri Mason , SUNY Fredonia , united states

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