An all female sailing expedition sets out to survey microplastics as part of the world’s largest simultaneous sampling of plastics in the Great Lakes Basin. Sevent teams are sailing on each of the Great Lakes, including the St. Lawrence and St. Clair rivers. This event is part of a global, female led initiative known as eXXpedition. The event is also supported by over 1,000 citizen scientists from Canada and the US who will take water samples as part of the study.
Microplastics is a term used to describe small pieces of broken down plastic less than 5mm in diameter which enter the water as litter, in wastewater, or as accidental loss of industrial material in transport, and other means. Microplastics have been noted in our waters since the 70’s, but their impact on fish and birds, and their overall effect on the marine environment is a more recent finding.
A 2015 study from the U of Waterloo showed at least a half million pieces of plastic per square kilometre. Another recent study done by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change found 6.7 million particles per square kilometre in Humber Bay off Toronto.
One of the key challenges with microplastics is that through fish and birds these plastics enter the food chain…and so does the toxins associated with plastics. Many of these toxins have been linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues in humans.
In June 2016 the federal government listed microbeads as a toxic substance…enabling a future ban.
Initiatives like the Great Lakes eXXpedition show that citizens can play a important role in filling knowledge gaps and fostering solutions. Leaders in such diverse areas like aquatic toxicology, food security, biology, and social activism can get together in a supportive spirit.
To learn more about the global microplastics study, visit…
To find out how you can get involved, visit…