July 22, 2015 — They’re in the oceans, in the Great Lakes, and now it turns out they’re fouling the Chesapeake Bay—microplastics, the remnants of unrecycled products that are damning the world’s water to seemingly eternal pollution.
The presence of microplastics—from broken-up containers to ingredients in bathroom products—has been established in four Bay tributaries by researchers at the University of Maryland, NOAA, and elsewhere. “Microplastics were found in all but one of 60 samples, with concentrations ranging over 3 orders of magnitude (<1.0 to >560 g/km2),” they write in Environmental Science and Technology. “Concentrations demonstrated statistically significant positive correlations with population density and proportion of urban/suburban development within watersheds.”
One can deduce that with more growth around Baltimore and Washington, D.C., we can expect to see yet more microplastics. See, and maybe eat, too, as scientists recently discovered the stuff’s being consumed by plankton and passed up the food chain. That’s bad news for marine animals, which can starve on the nutrientless substances or die of stomach obstructions, and possibly for humans, as plastics leach chemicals into fish with unknown impacts on our health. (They might also affect that treasured Chesapeake delicacy, blue crabs, as crabs both eat and breathe in microplastics.)