Harmful effects of microplastics to be discussed at "Conservation Conversation"

Dec 4, 2015

There has been growing concern about the harmful effects of microplastics in waterways, and a local tourist attraction is inviting people to learn more about how they are affecting the Great Lakes.

Earlier this year, officials in Erie, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties passed laws that will ban personal care products containing microbeads.

On Saturday, the Aquarium of Niagara will focus more attention on the dangers of microplastics when it hosts another "Conservation Conversation." Dr. Sherri Mason, who has been involved in extensive studies on plastic pollution in the Great Lakes, will give a 1 p.m. lecture. Mason, a  professor of environmental

Dr. Sherri Mason
Credit SUNY Fredonia

science and chemistry at SUNY Fredonia, has researched the proliferation of plastic particles in waterways.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are found in  many personal care products. After their use, they are discarded down the drain, pass through treatment plants and pollute waterways.

“The plastics that we are seeing in the Great Lakes are so small that they can easily be ingested," Mason told WBFO. "But, as they are in the water, they pick up chemicals. So, when they are ingested, they then move those chemicals into the organism that ingests them.”

Microbeads are used in more than 100 personal care products, including some soaps, toothpastes and facial scrubs.

“People are the cause of the problem, but that also means they are the solution," she said.  “Simply changing the face wash you use. There are products on the market place that contain microbeads, but there are products in the market place that don’t."

The Saturday lecture is part of a series of conservation lectures sponsored by the Aquarium of Niagara. The lecture is free with admission and will include an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

"Taking care of our lakes is part of our conservation messaging at the Aquarium of Niagara," said Executive Director Guy Molnar. "We hope our audience in the Buffalo Niagara region will spend some time with us on Saturday and learn how each person can make a difference."