FIU Researchers Find Microplastics in Biscayne Bay & Florida Bay

Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. (Image by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University)
Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. (Image by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes microplastics as small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long. Microplastics can takes several forms:

  • primary microplastics (a/k/a microbeads) that are used in the manufacture of plastic products or as abrasives in other products,
  • secondary microplastics which come from plastic trash breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces; and
  • microfibers – synthetic filaments used to make our polyester, nylon, spandex & other types of fabrics.

Whatever their form and whatever their source, microplastics pose environmental problems for wildlife and humans – and now high levels of a specific type of microplastic has been found in our Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay.

University of Florida researchers investigating algae in southern Biscayne Bay and northeast Florida Bay over the last two years made an unexpected discovery halfway through their work: high levels of tiny shards of blue-tinted microplastics.

The microplastics appeared in dense amounts, like an algae mat, that the researchers fear could be consumed by wildlife.

According to WLRN’s Jenny Staletovich, researchers were studying the affects of freshwater on the micro plankton in north Florida Bay when they found the microplastics “in amounts of 10,000 to 20,000 particles per liter”.

A material science professor who looked at the plastics identified them as polystyrene, and coming from a specific kind. Polystyrene is used to make styrofoam cups and food containers. “It’s hard to pinpoint what the plastic was, because what we’re seeing is fragments.

We’re not seeing the original plastic material. But it was very consistent,” he said. “There was one type of plastic. It wasn’t like multiple different kinds.”

With the findings, [Edward Phlips, a UF fisheries professor and lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports last month], said it might be time to add plastics monitoring and set limits.

Read the full article here: Researchers Find Potential New Threat To Biscayne And Florida Bays: Microplastics