New York City Waterways Teeming With Microplastic

A new study shows that the waterways around New York City are teeming with plastics, including microbeads pollution.

“The study estimated there are at least 165 million plastic particles floating in New York Harbor and nearby waters at any given time. The report was based on samples collected by trawlers that plied the city’s East River, the mouth of the Hudson River and New Jersey’s Passaic River and Raritan Bay between March and August 2015. The average concentration of plastics was 256,322 particles per square kilometer,” the Associated Press (AP) reported, citing the new research. (…) (wateronline.com, 18/02/2016)

The news

Unseen threat : how microbeads harm New York waters, wildlife, health and environment

New York waters are being polluted with microbeads: tiny plastic beads produced for use as abrasives in cosmetics and personal care products. Buoyant, multicolored and often spherical, these plastic microbeads are washed down bathroom sinks, pass through wastewater treatment plants, and end up discharged into New York’s waters. In our waters, microbeads persist for decades, acting as sponges for toxic chemical pollutants. Mistaken for food by aquatic organisms, microbeads serve as a pathway for pollutants to enter the food chain and contaminate the fish and wildlife we eat. (…)

New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, 2014

The report

Investigating the fate of microplastic particles in the Mohawk and Hudson watersheds, New York state

We are investigating whether microplastic particles (<1.0 mm in diameter) from personal-care products are reaching major waterways of eastern New York state. In 2013, samples of planktonic material were collected at 17 sites in the near-shore channels of the lower Mohawk River between Utica and Waterford, NY, and the upper Hudson River between Selkirk and Troy, NY. Samples were obtained by pouring ~150 to 250 gallons of river water through a stack of sieves (2.0, 1.0, 0.5, 0.25, 0.125, and 0.063 mm screens; material >1.0 mm was discarded). Samples are undergoing wet peroxide oxidation and transmitted-light and scanning electron microscope examination. Results to date indicate that microplastic particles are present in the planktonic sediment load, but in relatively low quantities. Notably, we have yet to find the spherical microplastic particles (“microbeads”) that are commonly associated with personal-care products. Instead, much of the plastic material we have recovered is in the form of fragments and fibers. (…)

Northeastern Section – 50th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2015), Paper No. 13-4, SMITH, Jacqueline A., ERVOLINA, Emma, and BARRY, Bryan T., Physical & Biological Sciences, The College of Saint Rose, NY

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 47, No. 3, p.58

The abstract