As summer draws to a close in the northern hemisphere, we should ask ourselves a question–besides the white sands and the blue sea, what else are we leaving behind? On this month we mark International Coastal Cleanup Day with a call to action—we should be mindful of how much the ocean means to us and of the alarming rise in the number of tiny particles that are creating one of the biggest environmental problems ever faced by our marine ecosystems at global level: microplastics pollution.
Microplastics are defined as solid, synthetic, water-insoluble particles less than 5 mm long with a very low capacity to degrade. These long-lasting fragments are now ubiquitous in our lives—besides polluting our marine and terrestrial ecosystems, they have found their way into our food chain and our water pipes, with recent studies showing presence of microplastics in 80 percent of drinking water samples from all over the world.
This is why the World Health Organization considers them an emerging risk. Further complicating matters, these tiny particles act as magnets, absorbing toxic substances and sometimes disease-carrying organisms.