Streams

Microplastics in our Water

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Water drop from faucet (Free Bird Photos/Shutterstock)

Microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic commonly used in personal care products, are showing up in waterways across the nation. These tiny particles are considered potentially dangerous to the environment because of their tendency to absorb toxins in the water and then get consumed by fish and other organisms. Rolf Halden, Director of the Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University, and Sherri Mason, Associate Professor of Chemistry at SUNY Fredonia, explain the hazards of these particles in our water.

Guests:

Rolf Halden and Sherri Mason

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Comments [12]

Stephen Knowlton from Fair Haven, NJ 07704

Do the public water suppliers filter out the plastics? I think that they run water from reservoirs through filters (activated carbon?) before they pump the water into the pipes.

Feb. 01 2014 08:43 PM
jf from from the future

Oh the life-cycle has been factored. The corporations are destroying the natural world as quickly as possible so that we have no other option than to be a slave to their products. All of their products are un necessary. Baking soda is non toxic, it works BETTER than any of the toxic products they are dispersing throughout the earth to kill nature to force everyone into their revenue stream permanently. A loofah has nano fibers that will wipe away oil forever without getting oily using hot water alone. Loofahs grow on trees.

Feb. 01 2014 08:28 AM
Sherri "Sam" Mason from Fredonia, NY

@Benny: They are probably remaining within the sludge of your septic tank, slowly being discharged into the sediment and possibly slowly migrating through the soil. Probably less of an immediate issue as compared to public water supplies (sewage systems) but we are all connected to each other.

@Amy: I believe that statistic was per year. Do keep in mind that that stat was also by weight. Plastics don't weigh much (on of the reasons manufacturers like them) so while 16 lbs. per year might sound small, it is a HUGE volume of plastic with regard to water pollution.

@Kitty: I think it is largely because of cost and changes that will need to be made in the way the products are manufactured. Large institutions move slowly. Its just the way it is, unfortaunately. I say this speaking form someone who works at a large institution and conducts research aboard a large war of 1812 sailing tall ship. They just can't changed directions quickly.

@Hollis: Plastic is the least recycle-able material. Chances are that they bags are not getting recycled, but are getting 'down-cycled.' They are being turned into the lining of a jacket or a sleeping bag. Once that product has lived its life, it will be trashed. Can't be recycled. While the polymeric material of plastic is so durable and resistant to degradation that it can live, essentially, forever, they are actually only cycled through 1-3 products before becoming trash. That is the biggest problem with plastic: Able to last forever, but designed to be thrown away.

@Sashi: Thank you! I knew I had the name wrong, but couldn't remember it exactly.

Jan. 30 2014 09:38 PM
Sherri "Sam" Mason from Fredonia, NY

@Benny: They are probably remaining within the sludge of your septic tank, slowly being discharged into the sediment and possibly slowly migrating through the soil. Probably less of an immediate issue as compared to public water supplies (sewage systems) but we are all connected to each other.

@Amy: I believe that statistic was per year. Do keep in mind that that stat was also by weight. Plastics don't weigh much (on of the reasons manufacturers like them) so while 16 lbs. per year might sound small, it is a HUGE volume of plastic with regard to water pollution.

@Kitty: I think it is largely because of cost and changes that will need to be made in the way the products are manufactured. Large institutions move slowly. Its just the way it is, unfortaunately. I say this speaking form someone who works at a large institution and conducts research aboard a large war of 1812 sailing tall ship. They just can't changed directions quickly.

@Hollis: Plastic is the least recycle-able material. Chances are that they bags are not getting recycled, but are getting 'down-cycled.' They are being turned into the lining of a jacket or a sleeping bag. Once that product has lived its life, it will be trashed. Can't be recycled. While the polymeric material of plastic is so durable and resistant to degradation that it can live, essentially, forever, they are actually only cycled through 1-3 products before becoming trash. That is the biggest problem with plastic: Able to last forever, but designed to be thrown away.

@Sashi: Thank you! I knew I had the name wrong, but couldn't remember it exactly.

Jan. 30 2014 09:38 PM
Sashi

The app is called Beat the microbead or Warning: Plastics Inside!

Jan. 30 2014 04:41 PM
Hollis from Brooklyn

What happens to the plastic bags I put in the designated recycling containers you find in various stores ? Are they really getting recycled

Jan. 30 2014 01:44 PM
Stuart Garber from Brooklyn

Couldn't find the app your guest mentioned.

Jan. 30 2014 01:44 PM
Kitty from White Plains

I'm assuming that there are plastic manufacturers that would fight the idea that micro beads should be stopped. Are companies not cutting them out immediately because of contracts with these companies?

Jan. 30 2014 01:42 PM
Tina from Queens

I have been using GRANULATED SUGAR for years, for scrubbing my face and body. It's an excellent scrubber. It's natural, it's cheap compared to all those fancy scrubs, it melts by the time you finish and... it leaves a sweet taste in your mouth when you do it :)

Jan. 30 2014 01:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Every person produces 16 lbs. of plastic waste in what time period? A week? A year?

Jan. 30 2014 01:37 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I had the impression from the ads that the beads dissolved & released some ingredient--I thought that was going to be the problem the guests would talk about. Of course, the ads don't mention that the beads are plastic. I'm glad I never used any of those products!

Jan. 30 2014 01:34 PM
Benny from Jesery City

How does this affect plumbing? What about my septic tank?

Jan. 30 2014 01:28 PM

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