The Problem with Microplastics
Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic five millimeters or smaller. Their small size exempts them from most regulations, but makes microplastics a big pollution problem.
Microplastics enter the environment through human use. Beauty products with microbeads, synthetic clothing, plastic bags, polystyrene foam packaging, and disposable plastic items can all contribute to microplastic pollution.
Plastic doesn’t decay – it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Because they’re so tiny, microplastics can’t be filtered out or removed from the waters of San Francisco Bay. All plastics contribute to the microplastics problem.
These tiny bits of plastic may be harmful to aquatic life in our Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Animals mistake microplastics for food, and eating these tiny plastic bits exposes them to the pollutants within the plastics.
Rebecca Sutton, et al. 2019. Understanding Microplastic Levels, Pathways, and Transport in the San Francisco Bay Region. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.
Rochman, C. M.; Munno, K.; Box, C.; Cummins, A.; Zhu, X.; Sutton, R. 2020. Think Global, Act Local: Local Knowledge Is Critical to Inform Positive Change When It Comes to Microplastics. Environmental Science & Technology. SFEI Contribution No. 1024.
Miller, E.; Sedlak, M.; Lin, D.; Box, C.; Holleman, C.; Rochman, C. M.; Sutton, R. 2020. Recommended Best Practices for Collecting, Analyzing, and Reporting Microplastics in Environmental Media: Lessons Learned from Comprehensive Monitoring of San Francisco Bay. Journal of Hazardous Materials . SFEI Contribution No. 1023.
Brander, et al., 2020. Sampling and Quality Assurance and Quality Control: A Guide for Scientists Investigating the Occurrence of Microplastics Across Matrices. Applied Spectroscopy 74 (9). SFEI Contribution No. 1012.
Hung, C.; Klasios, N.; Zhu, X.; Sedlak, M.; Sutton, R. 2020. Methods Matter: Methods for Sampling Microplastic and Other Anthropogenic Particles and Their Implications for Monitoring and Ecological Risk Assessment. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 16 (6). SFEI Contribution No. 1014
Miller, E.; Klasios, N.; Lin, D.; Sedlak, M.; Sutton, R.; Rochman, C. 2020. Microparticles, Microplastics, and PAHs in Bivalves in San Francisco Bay. SFEI Contribution No. 976. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.
Meg Sedlak et. al., 2019 SFEI Microplastics Strategy Update SFEI Contribution No. 951. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.
Gilbreath et al., 2019. Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment. Multiyear Water Quality Performance and Mass Accumulation of PCBs, Mercury, Methylmercury, Copper, and Microplastics in a Bioretention Rain Garden.
Xia Zhu, et al., 2019. Environmental Science & Technology. Identification of Microfibers in the Environment Using Multiple Lines of Evidence. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b05262
Rachel L. Merzel, et al., 2019. Global Challenges. Uptake and Retention of Nanoplastics in Quagga Mussels. https://doi.org/10.1002/gch2.201800104
Sutton, R.; Sedlak, M. 2017. Microplastic Monitoring and Science Strategy for San Francisco Bay. SFEI Contribution No. 798. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.
Rebecca Sutton, et al., 2016. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Volume 109, Issue 1. Microplastic contamination in the San Francisco Bay, California, USA. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.05.077
Rebecca Sutton, 2016. Microplastic Contamination in San Francisco Bay - Fact Sheet. 2015, Revised 2016. SFEI Contribution No. 770.
Project Partners and Funding Sources
The 5 Gyres Institute
UC Davis Center for Watershed Science
With Additional Support From:
San Francisco Bay Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality
City of Palo Alto
East Bay Municipal Water District
Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation
California Ocean Protection Council
San Francisco Baykeeper