Surprising Microfibers in Fish and Food.

Jon Platek
by Jon Platek

Living in a cold winter climate, I love my fleece shirts, and have been struggling with this information for a few months trying to ignore the facts.
Studies have shown the Mississippi River is full of these microfibers. These are even smaller than microbeads.   Microbeads in soaps, make-up, and toothpaste created much worry and Congress has banned them. However, new studies are showing that microfibers are worse for us and wildlife than microbeads. Yikes, very confusing.  Read the entire article on the Mississippi River study

Information from NPR:

The innovation of synthetic fleece has allowed many outdoor enthusiasts to hike with warmth and comfort. But what many of these fleece-wearing nature lovers don’t know is that each wash of their jackets and pullovers releases thousands of microscopic plastic fibers, or microfibers, into the environment — from their favorite national park to agricultural lands to waters with fish that make it back onto our plates.
This has scientists wondering: Are we eating our sweaters’ synthetic microfibers?
Probably, says Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Toronto, St. George. “Microfibers seem to be one of the most common plastic debris items in animals and environmental samples,” Rochman says.
In fact, peer-reviewed studies have shown that these synthetic microfibers — a type of plastic smaller than a millimeter in length and made up of various synthetic polymers — have popped up in table salt in China, in arctic waters and in fish caught off the coast of California. These tiny fibers make up 85 percent of human debris on shorelines across the globe, according to a 2011 study. They’re basically inescapable. So it’s not unlikely they’re finding their way into the human diet, especially in seafood.” NPR

Fleece keeps us warm!
Fleece keeps us warm!

I hope that municipalities will come up with filters that will take these fibers out of our water during sewage treatment, or filters will become available to put on our washing machines, but until then we can wash our fleece less and try to consider some alternative natural clothing like wool and cotton.

  1. Wash fleece less often.
  2. Stay informed on microfibers
  3. Wear cotton and wool

https://health4earth.com/2014/07/16/what-products-contain-microbeads/

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My Four Thoughts of Hope

The sun sets on 2015
The sun sets on 2015
 
 

2015 has been a good year for some environmental initiatives. While there is still a long way to go.  I have four stories from 2015 that create hope for the future of our planet.

  1. Microbeads: Congress passed and President Obama signed legislation banning microbeads from products. This is huge for our lakes, streams and oceans!  http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/12/obama_signs_ban_on_microbead_p.html
  2. Renewable Energy:  I have been thrilled many times this year as I read about new solar installations. Both wind and solar have entered the big leagues of energy. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/12/24/why-2015-may-be-remembered-as-a-transformative-year-for-how-we-get-energy/
  3. GMOs: Large manufacturers are starting to reject GMO ingredients.  While so far it might be just talk, it is a big change, thanks to the voice of the consumer! http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-food-gmo-analysis-idUSBREA1H1G420140218
  4. Paris Climate Agreement: Thanks to President Obama, President Hollande and the French negotiators we have an incredible beginning to deal with climate change. http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/12/13/npr-2-degrees-100-billion-the-world-climate-agreement-by-the-numbers

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Erase Plastic Pollution

Do we want water that looks like this?
Do we want waterways that looks like this?

My series on less waste continues:

We can all do something about this tremendous influx of trash and I will be posting ideas for 31 days on how to reduce trash and waste:

Plastic, what an amazing and awful product at the same time.! It is cheap and it is light.  Unfortunately, it has become an enormous environmental problem.  Many lack the personal responsibility to get single-use plastic bottles and bags to the recycle bin.  Many developing nations I visit seem oblivious to it, except in tourist areas! Days 6 through 11 of #31daysofreducingwaste are going to focus on how we can have less plastic pollution.

So what is the problem with plastic? Many say the materials in plastic cause cancer. Plastic will never dissolve, but will break into thousands of pieces of litter. The plastic in the oceans will be here on earth for hundreds of years and it will be found in the intestines of many fish, turtles and birds.  Plastic creates a terrible waste and litter problem.  According to the http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/tag/plastic/   If left unchecked, there could be 250 million tons of plastic in the ocean by 2025 — about one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish. We can’t let this happen.

Avoid plastic, fill your glass or metal bottles with liquid

Avoid plastic, fill your glass or metal bottles with liquid

** The best way to reduce plastic trash is NOT to drink bottled water. Bring a reusable water bottle to work, school, and for all your adventures.

**Avoid plastic bags. Always bring your reusable shopping bags.

Shopping bags made from recycled plasstic
Shop with reusable bags

** How can you avoid baggies?  I love these wpid-wp-1418350258136.jpegcompostable wax paper bags

** Reuse and recycle all plastic bags.

Please recycle plastic bags at grocery stores!
Please recycle plastic bags at grocery stores!

* Reduce packaging: Try to purchase items with no packaging or packaging that can be recycled.

 

 

** Never purchase items that contain microbeads :  https://health4earth.com/2014/07/16/what-products-contain-microbeads/

 

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (Source: EPA)

http://washburn.mpls.k12.mn.us/washburn_green_team_video.html  This is a great video made by my local high school students on reducing trash.

 

Our Plastic Madness

Plastic from our waters
Plastic from our waters

watersshannon05 via Flickr)

My blog on microbeads receives many hits. https://health4earth.com/2014/07/16/what-products-contain-microbeads/  People are interested in this. David Suzuki  http://www.davidsuzuki.org/ had an excellent post on microbeads so I am reposting it here.  I hope this will heighten your awareness of plastic.

The best paragraph is at the end: As consumers, we can avoid products containing microbeads and put pressure on companies and governments to end their use (5 Gyres has an online petition). And, because more than a third of all plastic is disposable packaging, such as bags and bottles, we can and must limit our overall use, and reuse or recycle any that we do use.

I challenge you to try plastic free shopping.  It is possible… Please let us know what works for you!

From davidsuzuki.org

Microbeads are a sign of our plastic consumer madness


If you use personal-care products such as exfoliators, body scrubs and toothpastes containing microbeads, those are the costs you could be paying. The tiny bits of plastic — less than five millimetres in diameter, and usually from one-third to one millimetre — are 
used as scrubbing agents. Now they’re turning up everywhere, especially in oceans, lakes and along shorelines. They aren’t biodegradable.How much are whiter teeth and smoother skin worth to you? Are they worth the water and fish in the Great Lakes? The cormorants that nest along the shore? The coral reefs that provide refuge and habitat for so much ocean life? Are they worth the oceans that give us half the oxygen we breathe, or the myriad other creatures the seas support?

Research by the 5 Gyres Institute found an average of 43,000 beads per square kilometre in the Great Lakes, with concentrations averaging 466,000 near cities. Tests on fish from Lake Erie found an average of 20 pieces of plastic in medium-sized fish and eight in small fish. Cormorants, which eat fish, had an average of 44 pieces of plastic each. Microplastics have been found in the oceans and even under Arctic sea ice.Scientists at Australia’s James Cook University found corals starving after eating the tiny beads, their digestive systems blocked.

It’s not just the plastic that harms animals; the beads absorb toxic chemicals, making them poisonous to any creature that mistakes them for food or that eats another that has ingested the plastic — all the way up the food chain. Because humans eat fish and other animals, these toxins can end up in our bodies, where they can alter hormones and cause other health problems.

It’s a high price to pay for limited benefits from unnecessary personal care products. Exfoliators and scrubs can use any number of harmless natural ingredients, including baking soda, oatmeal, ground seeds, sea salt and even coffee grounds. Microbeads are not only pointless in toothpaste; they can be harmful. Dentists and hygienists are finding plastic particles embedded under people’s gum lines, which can cause inflammation and infection.

The folly of producing and marketing products without adequate regulatory oversight and consideration of long-term consequences makes you shake your head. As Great Lakes study researcher Sherri Mason told the Ottawa Citizen, producers haven’t given much thought to anything beyond the fact that the beads wouldn’t clog drains. “There wasn’t that forethought, which is often the trouble with man and the environment,” she said.

Microbeads illustrate the excesses of marketing and consumerism, but they’re only part of the problem. Most plastics eventually break down into microparticles, often ending up in oceans and other waters, where they’re eaten by organisms ranging from tiny plankton to large whales. Some plastic has even started to fuse with rocks, creating a substance new to our planet that scientists call “plastiglomerate”.

According to British Antarctic Survey scientist David Barnes, “One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics.”

That’s astounding, considering mass production and widespread use of synthetic, mostly petroleum-based plastics only began in the 1940s. Barnes and other researchers who compiled research from around the world say more plastic was produced in the first decade of this century than in the entire previous hundred years.

Microbeads are among the newer developments in the brief history of our plastic lifestyle. The 5 Gyres Institute launched a campaign asking companies to remove them from products. So far, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble have agreed to do so. Several U.S. states and European countries are planning to ban the beads, and Environment Canada is studying the problem. The federal NDP has introduced a motion to ban them here.

As consumers, we can avoid products containing microbeads and put pressure on companies and governments to end their use (5 Gyres has an online petition). And, because more than a third of all plastic is disposable packaging, such as bags and bottles, we can and must limit our overall use, and reuse or recycle any that we do use.

Plastic has made life more convenient, but many of us remember a time when we got along fine without it.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/

http://beatthemicrobead.org/images/pdf/RED%20UNITED%20STATES.pdf

http://ecowatch.com/2015/04/30/new-york-ban-microbeads/  Very good news!

It’s the Only Water We Will Ever Have!

Do we take our drinkable water for granted?
DSC00360

wpid-wp-1416885608659.jpegThe water we have here on earth is the ONLY water we will ever have! Our water moves through the incredible water cycle by evaporating, and then returning to earth in some form of precipitation. We reuse, reuse and reuse the same water. I have gratitude that, my state, Minnesota is a water rich state.  Unfortunately, even in proud Minnesota we don’t take care of our water.

Seelink: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/295353031.html    Streams and lakes in southwest Minnesota unsafe for fish and swimming

If this is the only water we will ever have on earth, shouldn’t we treat it better?  What we do on the land affects what happens in our water. Rain through polluted air brings those chemicals into our water bodies. Rain washes chemicals off our houses, lawns, sidewalks and fields into our rivers and lakes. Micro-beads and triclosan from our cosmetics and cleaning products wash into our waters. Litter from landscapes and streets and highways can find it’s way into our streams, lakes and oceans. Our water does have some ability to clean itself, but with the amounts of pollutants we put into it, it has become impossible! It is very expensive to clean polluted water and impossible to remove plastics and Styrofoam. What can we all do to ensure clean water?  If we all work together we can make a difference.

Easy ways to protect our water:

* Never litter,  pick up litter, and all waste from your dogs.

* Never put salt on your sidewalks

* Don’t put chemicals on your yard or plants.  Reduce the size of your lawn with a few easy to raise native plants.

* Never use Styrofoam and recycle all plastic, paper, cans and glass.

960133_616554661744515_1305522394_n

https://health4earth.com/2013/01/22/do-not-use-the-chemical-triclosan/

https://health4earth.com/2014/07/16/what-products-contain-microbeads/

What Products Contain Microbeads?

Lake Superior
Lake Superior

How can you reduce your use of microbeads?  By purchasing products at my local food

Some co-ops have fabulous selections of soaps and lotions to refill your bottles
Some co-ops have fabulous selections of soaps and lotions to refill your bottles

coop and refilling my bottles and containers, I have hoped I wasn’t adding microbeads to our waterways.  Below from the Sierra Club is the best information I have seen on microbeads. Read to find out which products NOT to purchase, and how to get rid of them if you have any of the listed items!

Below is from the Sierra Club 

HOW TO HANDLE MICROBEADS

BY BOB SHILDGEN

First let’s review. “Microbeads” are tiny beads of plastic less than a millimeter thick that are often added to cosmetics as exfoliants and cleansing agents. Even some toothpastes contain them. It may sound like a strange use of plastic, but cosmetic companies apparently found that microbeads were cheaper than non-synthetic alternatives. The beads themselves (also called “mermaid’s tears”) are made of polyethylene or polystyrene. They are not toxic, but can pass through filters in water treatment plants and enter the water system. There, researchers warn, they can bind to toxic substances such as DDT, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls. Creatures in the water ingest these now poisonous little pellets, endangering themselves and the food chain. Yeah, I know, it’s weird to think that by washing your face or brushing your teeth you might beget a mutant fish—or mermaid—smack in the middle of Lake Erie, but such are the risks of progress through chemistry.

So–the safest way to get rid of the stuff is to leave it in its container, tighten the lid, and send it to the landfill with your regular garbage where it’s quite unlikely to escape into the environment. But NEVER, ever, not ever, pour it down a drain or flush it down the toilet, because that’s exactly how it spreads into the watershed.

By the way, to find out if a product contains these deadly beads, check the label for “polyethylene,” “PE,” “polystyrene,” or PS. The organization, “Beat the Microbead” has a list of products known to contain the beads.

http://beatthemicrobead.org/images/pdf/RED%20UNITED%20STATES.pdf  Products that contain microbeads

Some good news: The fight against these beady polluters is already having some success. Illinois has banned the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads, and bans have been proposed in several other states. There is also a growing movement to ban the beads in Europe. The cosmetics industry itself is in damage-control mode as some major companies have agreed to replace the microbeads with safer materials. This is a hopeful sign, because, as we’ve noted before, the last thing we need is still more plastic in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. —Bob Schildgen

http://ecowatch.com/2014/07/28/plastic-pellets-pollute-lake-erie/?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=33c62c534f-Top_News_7_28_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-33c62c534f-85912169