Researchers have been worried about the potential harms of microplastics for almost 20 years — although most studies have focused on the risks to marine life. Richard Thompson, a marine ecologist at the University of Plymouth, UK, coined the term in 2004 to describe plastic particles smaller than 5 millimetres across, after his team found them on British beaches. Scientists have since seen microplastics everywhere they have looked: in deep oceans; in Arctic snow and Antarctic ice; in shellfish, table salt, drinking water and beer; and drifting in the air or falling with rain over mountains and cities. These tiny pieces could take decades or more to degrade fully. “It’s almost certain that there is a level of exposure in just about all species,” says Galloway.
Scientists are rushing to study the tiny plastic specks that are in marine animals — and in us.
person from the
particles a year.
approve plan to crack
down on microplastics polluting the ocean
California aims to sharply limit the spiraling scourge of microplastics in the ocean, while urging more study of this threat to fish, marine mammals and potentially to humans, under a plan a state panel approved Wednesday.