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New study finds tiniest ocean microplastics are evading detection: 'A vastly understudied area'

This discovery is shining a much-needed spotlight on a major environmental challenge.

This discovery is shining a much-needed spotlight on a major environmental challenge.

Photo Credit: iStock

Plastic waste in our oceans is a growing problem — and a new study reveals the issue may be much larger than we thought.

Researchers at Stony Brook University have discovered that the tiniest microplastics, which were once undetectable, are the most abundant pollutants in our seas, according to Futurity.

What's happening?

The researchers found that microplastics under 53 micrometers in size — about the width of a human hair — are up to hundreds of thousands of times more common in our seas than previously realized.

These tiny microplastics, while barely visible, can spell big trouble for marine life and human health.

 Why are ocean microplastics concerning?

Many common plastic chemicals found in the tiny particles have been linked to negative biological effects when ingested by sea creatures. What's more, microplastics can work their way up the food chain into humans through seafood.

According to Jaymie Meliker, a professor of public health at Stony Brook University: "Understanding health risks from exposure to microplastics is a vastly understudied area, and investigations are needed to understand the health impacts from microplastics of different shapes, sizes, and compositions."

Our own well-being is tied to the health of our oceans — and right now, that vital resource is under threat from plastic pollution that we weren't even aware of.

What's being done to clean up our oceans?

This discovery is shining a much-needed spotlight on a major environmental challenge, opening the door for solutions. Researchers are now calling for wider efforts to capture and address the spread of microplastics using newly developed detection techniques.

On a personal level, you can help tackle the problem at its source by reducing your own plastic footprint. Simple swaps like reusable grocery bags, water bottles, and straws can keep plastics from entering the waste stream in the first place.

Together, our everyday choices can add up to cleaner oceans for all.

As more light is shed on the true scope of ocean microplastics, one thing is clear: There has never been a more important time to turn the tide on plastic pollution. With the latest science as our guide, we can work to protect the marine ecosystems that sustain us, one small change at a time.

The ocean's future is in our hands.

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