How harmful are the microplastics in our waterways?
Category: research Video duration: How harmful are the microplastics in our waterways?
As car tires deteriorate, they leave behind tiny particles that make their way into our waterways, along with other emerging contaminates. Assistant Professor Austin Gray, along with his graduate and undergraduate students, are researching the effects of these microplastics.
It's like an inside. My lab is focused on looking at emerging contaminants and microplastics specifically or what we're interested in because these are emerging contaminant that are found globally in drinking water, surface water, streams, lakes, rivers. Back in 2018, I was in Charleston, South Carolina. We were looking at micro plastic pollution within beaches. And we found the small black particles that we couldn't really identify what they were. These are actually tie wear particles. You think about tires. They are made on different types of components, meaning they could be butadiene, styrene. And these are all polymers that are used in production of tires, that are actually plastics. Cars have tires and tires kept the potential to break down and create tire wear particles that can leach and become toxic to organisms that are present within the streams. And this can introduce stream from the roadways through rain events and could get carried down the stream and ultimately end up into our oceans. Typically a tie or you will lose about 30% of itself over its lifetime. So that means that there's small black particles that are coming up or microplastics that enter different types of waterways, including where we have on campus. Because of their composition, they can x4 various types of contaminants. These binds to the microplastics. Microplastics itself becomes a vector where they're consumed by organisms. They can transfer these carcinogenic compounds through their tissues, or it can cause other types of oxidative stress or mortality within different types of organisms. This is a concern that's going to be affecting. I hate to sound dramatic, but the human society for eons, we're going to be finding classic particulates for years to come. And if we can try to get a jump on this, assess what type of toxicological effects these microplastics may have, as well as trying to be at the forefront of how to stop this from getting worse over time. It might not be easy, but it's something that I really liked investing in and really looking into it.