December 21, 2011
Home Washing Machines: Source Of Potentially Harmful Ocean ‘Microplastic’ Pollution
The latest episode in the American Chemical Society's (ACS) award-winning "Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions" podcast series discusses the discovery that household washing machines seem to be a major source of so-called "microplastic" pollution -- bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than the head of a pin -- that researchers now have detected on ocean shorelines worldwide.
In the podcast, Mark Anthony Browne, Ph.D., explains that the accumulation of microplastic debris in marine environments has raised health and safety concerns. The bits of plastic contain potentially harmful ingredients which go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish. Ingested microplastic can transfer and persist into their cells for months. How big is the problem of microplastic contamination? Where are these materials coming from? To answer those questions, the scientists looked for microplastic contamination along 18 coasts around the world and did some detective work to track down a likely source of this contamination.
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