September 17, 2021 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

5 Gyres Is Cleaning Up Our Waters One ‘Microbead’ At A Time

Santa Monica-based nonprofit 5 Gyres has a vision is to witness plastic pollution decline until it is no longer found in the world’s oceans, which includes microbeads found in face wash, body scrub, moisturizer, and toothpaste.
Santa Monica-based nonprofit 5 Gyres has a vision is to witness plastic pollution decline until it is no longer found in the world’s oceans, which includes microbeads found in face wash, body scrub, moisturizer, and toothpaste.

Early into Mike Nichol’s 1967 film “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman’s character receives some unsolicited post-grad advice: “One word: plastics … There’s a great future in plastics.”

Even then, audiences couldn’t have imagined what a prophecy that was. Plastics, designed for short-term use and originally marketed to the 1950s housewife as a panacea for dishwashing, paradoxically last indefinitely. Today, about 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, and only about 10 percent of that is recycled. Of the plastic simply trashed, about a quarter million tons ends up in the sea is floating in the sea.

But the accumulation of plastic waste doesn’t exist in the Great Pacific garbage patch or garbage zoo we’ve come to believe – it’s something more insidious.

“The best name for it is a plastic smog,” said Marcus Eriksen, lead author on a paper published earlier this year in the Plos One journal that served as the fist estimate of how much trash and plastic is floating in the world’s oceans. Eriksen is co-founder of the Santa Monica-based nonprofit 5 Gyres, along with his co-founder wife Anna Cummins.

About 92 percent of the 5.25 trillion particles of plastic in the sea are the size of a grain of rice or smaller, Eriksen said, and “what happens when trash gets near coastlines, on every coastline worldwide, sunlight or fish will reduce a plastic object to confetti very quickly.”

But the worst offender of plastic waste in the water doesn’t come from the bottles, six-pack rings, or bags. The biggest problem is actually the tiniest product: microbeads, found in face wash, body scrub, moisturizer, and toothpaste.

These perfectly spherical plastic balls are flushed into U.S. waters at a rate of roughly 38 tons annually, according to Cummins. What’s worse is that they’re too small to be recovered through most wastewater treatment plants but just small enough to get ingested by fish, including those species that humans harvest for food.

The 5 Gyres Institute is the first research organization to study all five oceans, and the only organization to study the southern hemisphere gyres.

For the past five years, they’ve used information based off annual worldwide expeditions to populate a global model of trash in the ocean. During these research trips on the sea, dragging a fine net behind the boat for a few miles, and they discovered a confetti of small plastic particles dominating every sample.

To quantify the presence of plastics even more, Cummins and Eriksen later sailed throughout the Great Lakes. They found the highest level of plastic yet of any ocean sample survey in anywhere in the world.

“One sample contained roughly 1,200 particles of plastic,” Cummins said. “In Lake Erie, we were able to trace these plastic particles back to companies and a specific product, and it’s something that many of you have in our own bathrooms at home.”

For example, one single tube of Johnson & Johnson’s Clean & Clear exfoliant contains about 350,000 of these polyethylene or polypropylene microbeads. Microbeads in scrubs and toothpastes wash down the drain but aren’t actually being captured by sewage treatment. They pass into rivers, lakes, and ultimately oceans, where they then threaten marine ecosystems via the food web.

5 Gyres has documented roughly 633 species of fish impacted by plastic waste, including being found in the circulatory systems of muscles and clams and even plankton.

“What we know about plastic and the way it behaves in the ocean is also where it becomes a potential human health threat,” Cummins said.

These small particles of plastic act as sponges for toxins such as DDT, PCBs, and other industrial chemicals, Cummins said. And because fish ingest these particles and absorb the toxins in their flesh, these contaminants can eventually make their way up the top of the food chain to humans. Cummins took this concern further when she tested her own blood and found trace levels of PCBs, DDT (all of which have been banned since the 1970s), PFCs, and flame-retardants.

“These are parts per million, parts per trillion in some cases so it’s not to say the chemical load we carry is going to have impacts on us today or tomorrow, but what’s to say for the next generation and the next?” she said.

The only solution for now is to stop the micro-particles at the source, since cleaning the oceans would be impossible. When 5 Gyres took their published findings to Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, the corporations agreed to slowly start phasing out the microbead products.

“But we wanted to take it one step further because we are far too small of an NGO to hold major multi-national corporations accountable,” Cummins said. “So we drafted a bill.”

They helped Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) author AB 888, which would set up the strongest protections in the country against the use of these unnecessary and toxic additives. California’s proposed ban is unique in that is prevents the use of both synthetic plastic microbeads and the biodegradable alternatives some companies are developing.

“There are bans in other states as well, but California being as big as we are will probably drive most of the thing,” Bloom said of the national impact of AB 888.

Connecticut, Maine, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, and Wisconsin have all ready passed legislation that prohibits the sale and manufacturing of microbeads; Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii are also considering legislation to phase out microbeads.

Though the initial vote on the California bill to ban microbeads fell one short of the 21 majority to pass the state senate in 2014, the bill passed the state assembly again this year and will come to a vote in the senate later this month before going to Gov. Jerry Brown for his consideration.

If passed, AB 888 would prohibit, on and after Jan. 1, 2020, selling a personal care

product containing intentionally added plastic microbeads that are used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off product.

Visit www.5gyres.org/banthebead or download the Beat the Microbead app for more information about the harm of microbeads on the humans and the marine environment.

in News
Related Posts

Man Arrested for Shooting at Family’s Vehicle Following Mar Vista Collision

September 16, 2021

September 16, 2021

LAPD arrest Victor Manuel Espino By Sam Catanzaro Police have arrested a man for shooting at a family following a...

Culver City High School’s Vanessa Andrick Named National Merit Semifinalist

September 15, 2021

September 15, 2021

Submitted by the Culver City Unified School District This week, officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced that Culver...

Westside Man Pleads Guilty to Gambling Away Fraudulently-Obtained COVID-Relief Loans

September 14, 2021

September 14, 2021

Andrew Marnell pleads guilty to one count of bank fraud  By Chad Winthrop A West Los Angeles man pleaded guilty...

Vaccine and Mask Mandates for Santa Monica College In-Person Classes this Fall

September 14, 2021

September 14, 2021

As Santa Monica College returns for the fall semester new protocols are in place, learn about campus capacity, vaccine and...

Mother Cradling 3-Year-Old Killed in Playa Del Rey Hit-and-Run

September 13, 2021

September 13, 2021

LAPD searching for suspect in connection to Saturday night incident By Sam Catanzaro Police are searching for a suspect wanted...

Police Searching for Suspect in Daylight Multi-Stabbing

September 13, 2021

September 13, 2021

Multiple victims in Saturday stabbings near Culver City By Chad Winthrop Police are searching for a suspect wanted for stabbing...

Culver City Crisis Negotiators Called to De-escalate After Man Floods Trader Joe’s Restroom

September 10, 2021

September 10, 2021

Culver City Police Department Crisis Negotiation Team handles September 7 incident By Sam Catanzaro Crisis negotiators responded to a Culver...

Westsider Sentenced to Federal Prison for Running Massive Telemarketing Scheme that Targeted Charities

September 8, 2021

September 8, 2021

A West Los Angeles man was sentenced last week to 48 months in federal prison – plus an additional 28...

CCHS Class of ’64, Operation USA Donate 250,000 Face Masks to CCUSD

September 8, 2021

September 8, 2021

Culver City Unified School District Richard Walden was watching television when news of the CCUSD vaccination mandate was making news...

Two Charged With Attempted Murder in Connection to Culver City Shooting

September 2, 2021

September 2, 2021

Ambush shooting remains under investigation by Culver City police By Chad Winthrop Two suspects face attempted murder charges following an...

Homeless Man Breaches LAX Security and Boards Plane

September 1, 2021

September 1, 2021

31-year-old Matthew Maine arrested by police in connection to Sunday incident By Sam Catanzaro A homeless man was arrested over...

Westfield Culver City Shooting Leaves Victim in Critical Condition

August 27, 2021

August 27, 2021

Suspects at large following Thursday night incident By Sam Catanzaro A man is in critical condition following a shooting at...

Culver City Restaurants Vie Michelin Stars

August 26, 2021

August 26, 2021

The prestigious California Michelin Guide–which included two Culver City restaurants in its previous edition–will still return in 2021 after being...

Gunshot Victim in Critical Condition Possibly Linked to Reports of Shots Fired in Culver City

August 24, 2021

August 24, 2021

Connection between two incidents under investigation By Sam Catanzaro Culver City police are investigating a possible link between reports of...