A concerning new study published in Scientific Reports reveals that Monterey Bay on the California coast is full of tiny plastic particles known as microplastics. The news comes only hours after a different study warned that Americans are consuming thousands of these tiny particles in food and water every year. The latest research indicates the same may be true for fish.
Microplastics measure less than 5mm in length and can originate from many sources — some were manufactured that tiny, such as microbeads, and others are the result of larger plastics that have been scraped or that have started degrading. These small bits of plastic enter both the soil and bodies of water, where they continue to break down into microscopic plastic particles.
In what is the first study to ‘systematically’ look at microplastics in the ocean at depths from the surface down to a depth of 1,000 meters. According to the researchers, microplastics in Monterey Bay are ‘common’ across that entire expanse, being present from the surface level all the way down to the seafloor. Most of these particles, the study reveals, originate from consumer products like plastic bottles.
A study published earlier this week found that humans are consuming thousands of microplastic particles every year from a variety of foods and water products, including bottled water and salt. This new study reveals that small ocean animals are also consuming the microplastics, including in the deep sea.
Though some water samples were taken near the shore, most of the samples analyzed as part of this study were collected around 15.5 miles from the coast. The microplastics concentrations between the ocean’s surface and deepest regions are described as ‘nearly identical,’ with the greatest concentration amassed in the middle depths range. All of the animal specimens analyzed were found to contain microplastics, as well.