Microplastics in local waterways to be focus of Eckerd event

click to enlarge Microplastics accumulating on the ocean floor near the Azores. - race for water
race for water
Microplastics accumulating on the ocean floor near the Azores.

The focus on the impact of plastics on local waterways and wildlife continues this week as environmental scientists in St. Pete gear up to talk about something less visible than plastic straws and water bottles: microplastics.

They've been the subject of much scrutiny of late, given what's been coming out regarding their impact on the environment, and recent legislation barring body care product manufacturers from using tiny plastic grains in products like body wash.

Eckerd College faculty members aim to discuss microplastics and their impact on regional waterways Saturday.

Research suggests that, when the tiny beads of plastic wash down our drains and out into water bodies, they could be doing serious harm.

It's unclear exactly what volume of tiny plastic beads has flowed into Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico, but researchers believe there is currently some present.

Microplastics invade bodies of water in two ways: they, as mentioned above, wash into rivers, lakes and oceans after consumers use scrubs containing tiny plastic beads as exfoliants. Or, larger plastic items discarded into waterways can break down into microscopic pieces over time.

The Eckerd event, which takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the campus's Galbraith Marine Science Building, aims to help quantify the levels of microplastics locally. Marine Scientists David Hastings and Katherine Sharp will sample water in Boca Ciega Bay, which is adjacent the campus, and invite attendees to help analyze their finds, examining both artificial tiny plastic debris as well as microscopic natural particles like phytoplankton.

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