The State Water Board has invited SFEI's Dr. Rebecca Sutton to present findings on microplastic as part of the Office of Information Management and Analysis (OIMA) Brown Bag Seminar, a monthly webinar series.
Microplastic, tiny particles of plastic smaller than 5 mm, are contaminants of emerging concern in aquatic environments around the world. Beauty products with microbeads, synthetic clothing, plastic bags, polystyrene foam packaging, and disposable plastic items can all contribute to microplastic pollution. In 2015, the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (Bay RMP) detected microplastic particles in the Bay. The Bay RMP study also indicated that a portion of these tiny particles were able to pass through Bay Area wastewater treatment plants, even those using the most advanced technologies. The Bay RMP is now developing a monitoring and science strategy to address microplastic in San Francisco Bay.
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The RMP has conducted initial studies of microplastic pollution in San Francisco Bay. Findings from a 2015 screening-level RMP study of microplastic pollution in our Bay show widespread contamination at levels greater than other U.S. water bodies with high levels of urban development, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. Wildlife consume microplastic particles; ingestion can lead to physical harm, and can expose aquatic organisms to pollutants like PCBs that the plastics have absorbed from the surrounding environment.