Researchers study effects of microplastics on waterways

- It’s something you may not realize when you brush your teeth or take a shower: The hygiene products that you use may have tiny particles known as microplastics that could end up in Bay Area waterways. 

"The word that you look for in your ingredients list is polyethylene and you'll find it in a lot of deodorants," explained Lara Milligan, who educates the public about microplastics at Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs.

Some clothing has it too.

"You think synthetic clothing. We wash our clothes, fibers shed from that, the water that drains out of your washing machine goes to the wastewater treatment plant," continued Milligan.

"If it's going down your drain, it makes its way down the wastewater processing facility and makes it out to Tampa Bay," offered Amy Suida, a professor at Eckerd College.

Professors and students head out into Tampa Bay each month to collect water samples. They are searching for the smallest microplastics.

"Those toxins could enter the food chain if they're eaten by organisms as well, so there's multiple ways that organisms could be harmed by the microplastics," said Suida.

No one knows yet what the potential harm is to humans.

"There's a lot of research being done on that,” said Suida.

But everyone can be part of the solution.  

"Just do what you can as an individual to reduce your contribution to any form of plastic pollution," suggested Milligan. 

LINK: Citizens can get involved in the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project. For information, visit: http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/flagler/marine-and-coastal/microplastics/

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