Although smaller than 5mm in size, microplastics may pose a severe threat to our oceans and rivers – and also our health.

In our latest video, marine researcher Abby Barrows discusses the importance of this emerging pollutant, and ASC adventurer Teresa Carey talks about collecting samples on her passage from Panama to Maine.

Watch the video here:

During 2014, ASC engaged ocean goers from 15 countries to collect seawater from each of the five oceans to study microplastic pollution. A shocking 90% of the surface water samples we analyzed were contaminated with this plastic debris. The average across all samples was 17 pieces of plastic per liter, and one sample contained 450 pieces in a single liter.

Microplastics have several known sources: They weather from larger debris like drink bottles or shopping bags; they’re laundered from nylon clothing; and they wash down the drain with many common cosmetics and toothpastes.


Looking west over the Penobscot Bay toward the Camden Hills, Maine. (Photo by Emily Wolfe)

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These tiny plastics have been shown to attract toxins including DDT, BPA and pesticides. Ingested by small aquatic life, the plastics biomagnify as they move up the food chain, where the toxins accumulate in larger birds, sea life and potentially humans.

As this project expands, we’re taking on more ocean adventurers almost every day, with the most recent ensigns headed everywhere from coastal New Jersey and the Chesapeake Bay, to the Canary Islands and the Maldives.

Join us in protecting our oceans.