Event Title

Microplastics in the NE Pacific: the emergence of an unprecedented pollutant class

Presentation Abstract

Microplastic pollution is becoming a major concern in the world’s oceans, but surprisingly little is known about the sources of these particles. We are conducting research on source, transport, fate and effects of microplastics in the NE Pacific, including studies of microplastics in seawater, wastewater, sediments, invertebrates and fish. We found subsurface seawater microplastics (< 5,000 µm) at concentrations reaching 9,200 particles/m3 in coastal British Columbia. Fibres accounted for approximately 75% of enumerated microplastic particles, but were higher nearshore than offshore (p<0.05). Lowest concentrations were found in offshore Pacific waters, increasing up to 27-fold in nearshore waters adjacent to urban centers. Risks to sealife are unclear, but our finding of a ready ingestion of microplastic particles by two species of zooplankton at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean food web raises troubling concerns about ecosystem-wide impacts. We have established a multi-partner research team to conduct a source-to-sink study involving an assessment of i) microplastic fibre sources in household laundry, ii) microplastics in wastewater treatment plants, iii) microplastics in the nearfield receiving environment, and iv) microplastic distribution in seawater in the NE Pacific Ocean. Fourier Transform Infra Red spectrometry (FTIR) in our laboratory is generating a heightened understanding of the nature and origin of microplastic particles in the N Pacific. This work is designed to enable solution-oriented principles to the apparel industry, regional and national governments, and … you, the consumer.

Session Title

Microplastic Pollution: a Troubling, Yet Tractable, Conservation Priority in the Salish Sea

Conference Track

SSE13: Plastics

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Seattle, WA : 2018)

Document Type

Event

SSEC Identifier

SSE13-633

Start Date

5-4-2018 3:30 PM

End Date

5-4-2018 3:45 PM

Type of Presentation

Oral

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Geographic Coverage

Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.)

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type

text

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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Apr 5th, 3:30 PM Apr 5th, 3:45 PM

Microplastics in the NE Pacific: the emergence of an unprecedented pollutant class

Microplastic pollution is becoming a major concern in the world’s oceans, but surprisingly little is known about the sources of these particles. We are conducting research on source, transport, fate and effects of microplastics in the NE Pacific, including studies of microplastics in seawater, wastewater, sediments, invertebrates and fish. We found subsurface seawater microplastics (< 5,000 µm) at concentrations reaching 9,200 particles/m3 in coastal British Columbia. Fibres accounted for approximately 75% of enumerated microplastic particles, but were higher nearshore than offshore (p<0.05). Lowest concentrations were found in offshore Pacific waters, increasing up to 27-fold in nearshore waters adjacent to urban centers. Risks to sealife are unclear, but our finding of a ready ingestion of microplastic particles by two species of zooplankton at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean food web raises troubling concerns about ecosystem-wide impacts. We have established a multi-partner research team to conduct a source-to-sink study involving an assessment of i) microplastic fibre sources in household laundry, ii) microplastics in wastewater treatment plants, iii) microplastics in the nearfield receiving environment, and iv) microplastic distribution in seawater in the NE Pacific Ocean. Fourier Transform Infra Red spectrometry (FTIR) in our laboratory is generating a heightened understanding of the nature and origin of microplastic particles in the N Pacific. This work is designed to enable solution-oriented principles to the apparel industry, regional and national governments, and … you, the consumer.