via NOAA

NE - Microplastic Sizes in Estuary and Coastal Ocean Revealed

Rutgers research shows stormwater could be important source of plastic pollution

Rutgers University scientists for the first time have pinpointed the sizes of microplastics from a highly urbanized estuarine and coastal system with numerous sources of fresh water, including the Hudson River and Raritan River.

Their study of tiny pieces of plastic in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary in New Jersey and New York indicates that stormwater could be an important source of the plastic pollution that plagues oceans, bays, rivers and other waters and threatens aquatic and other life.

"Stormwater, an understudied pathway for microplastics to enter waterways, had similar or higher concentrations of plastics compared with effluent from wastewater sewage treatment plants," said senior author Nicole Fahrenfeld, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "More research is needed to increase understanding of the full impact of microplastics on ecosystems."

In the early 1900s, General Bakelite began manufacturing Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic on Earth, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Today, plastics are used in myriad products worldwide and are widespread in marine and other environments, posing risks to wildlife and aquatic life.

Possible sources of microplastics—often fragments of larger pieces of plastic—include municipal, industrial, and stormwater outfalls.

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