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IMAS Researchers Find Growing Microplastic Pollution in Marine Beds

Published on 2017-07-14. Author : SpecialChem

Scientific sampling along the South East Australian coast has found high concentrations of microplastics in seafloor sediments, including along even remote stretches of coastline.

Growing Microplastic Pollution in Marine Beds: IMAS
Growing Microplastic Pollution in Marine Beds: IMAS

Microplastics Pollution

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) scientists have found an average of more than three plastic filaments or particles in every milliliter of marine sediment tested at 42 locations around New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

The locations sampled included Sydney Harbor, Jervis Bay, Eden, Port Philip Bay close to Melbourne and towards The Heads, Port Adelaide and the coast south of Adelaide, Hobart’s Derwent Estuary and Tasmania’s East Coast.

Plastic Dispersion

IMAS researcher Dr Scott Ling, who led the study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, said the discovery of microplastic pollution at every location showed how easily plastic is dispersed in the marine environment.

Dr Ling said:

“We were surprised by both the quantity of microplastics we found in marine sediments and their wide dispersal everywhere we looked along the South East Australian coast. Our study took samples of marine sediments from depths between five and 13 meters at sites close to the major population centers as well as remote sites on the NSW South Coast and Tasmania’s East Coast. While we expected to find high levels of pollution close to the major capitals, we did not expect to find similar concentrations far from urban centers. In fact, the highest concentration of 12 microplastic filaments per ml of sediment was from Bicheno on Tasmania’s East Coast.”

Dr Ling said:

“Microplastics are created both by the fragmentation of larger pieces of plastic in the ocean and by being manufactured as micro-beads for use in cosmetics, or micro fibers in clothing. Plastic filaments between 0.038mm and 0.250mm predominated in all four regions we sampled, making up 84 percent of the total. Because these filaments are often produced by household washing machines, and particles are transported with litter and by industrial discharge, we expected a stronger concentration of microplastics close to population centers but there was no such correlation. Due to their small size microplastics have the potential to be consumed by a very wide range of marine species and contaminate the entire food chain. Further research is needed to establish at what rate marine fauna are digesting these materials, and the impact they are having on individuals, populations and communities.”

Dr Ling said in other studies it is estimated that seventy percent of marine litter is expected to sink to the seafloor and enter marine sediments.

Dr Ling said:

“But while the huge volume of plastic debris accumulating in the world’s oceans and on beaches has received global attention, the amount of plastic accumulating on the seafloor is relatively unknown. The abundance of microplastic in marine sediments has been largely overlooked by researchers and this study is among the first in Australia to examine this issue.”

Field studies and analysis for this research were funded by the National Environmental Science Program Marine Biodiversity Hub.

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Source: Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
2 Comments on "IMAS Researchers Find Growing Microplastic Pollution in Marine Beds"
Ric W Sep 14, 2017
It is sad that there has not been a response (or acknowledgement) from Dr Ling since I posted my comment on July 20th. Is this another case of sensationalist journalism in order to get more funding?
Ric W Jul 20, 2017
It is interesting that Dr Ling did not mention the percent of microplastics due to cosmetics, because if he did, I think you will find that this amounts to less than 0.2%. Also note that plastic microbeads use in cosmetics is virtually non-existant since the problem was exposed but most washing machines still do not have filters and industrial applications he failed to mention, such as boat hull scouring where high pressure sprays (with plastic microbeads), go on unabated (and uncontrolled). Stop cosmetics bashing because it seems an easy target!

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