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Microplastic Research

Our water quality ACT program has expanded and is now taking microplastic counts from our local waterways. 

Our students take water and sediment samples from various sites and filter the samples to obtain the microplastics. 

  • A water sample or sand sample is taken at one of six local sites in Santa Rosa Sound

  • The sample is then filtered through a glass filter using a vacuum pump. A glass filter is used to prevent contamination of the sample

  • The sample on the filter is then allowed to dry out

  • The sample is viewed under a microscope and each microplastic is counted

  • The microplastics are photographed and sorted into either being a microfiber or a microplastic. A total count is then taken of each category for the overall sample


What are microplastics?

Extremely small pieces of plastic, less than 5mm in length. These pieces can be found throughout the world, both on land and in the ocean.

Why are they a problem?

Microplastics are a problem because they can absorb toxic metals like lead and copper, and become toxic themselves. This is an issue because microplastics are easily and frequently ingested by fish, other marine animals, and, most notably, humans.

In fish, the toxic microplastics can cause issues with their organs. Currently, potential side effects are being studied in humans.

Where do microplastics come from?

Microplastics come in two forms,

primary and secondary microplastics.

Most microplastics are secondary, which means they come from other plastic products breaking down, such as plastic bags, water bottles, and polyester clothing. 
Primary microplastics are microplastics that are created at a size less than 5mm. Such microplastics include: nurdles, beads from beauty products, and acrylic paint.

What can I do?

Few things can be done to remove microplastics from the environment. However, steps can be taken to prevent microplastics from entering the environment such as, wearing 100% cotton clothing and using glass and metal containers instead of plastic ones.

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