Microplastic pollution found around the coast

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Former De La Salle student Adam Dallas-Chapman is undertaking a microplastics study as part of his Masters degree in Environmental Protection and Management at Edinburgh University.

He has taken sand and water samples at ten local beaches in an effort to learn more about the distribution of the tiny plastic fragments in the Island.

On Monday, Mr Dallas-Chapman was out on the Fisheries boat Norman Le Brocq collecting water samples while the crew was on patrol.

‘I’ve sampled at ten beaches now and I am about to start to do analysis,’ he said.

He has taken sand samples at four sections of each beach, from the high-tide line down to the water’s edge, and has found microplastics in every section at every beach. And he has also collected water samples off the target areas.

Plastic debris is classed as a microplastic if it is under five millimetres in size. It is of particular concern to environmentalists as it can get into the food chain.

According to scientists, it is not yet known how the plastics might affect human health, but there are fears that the tiniest fragments, some of which are less than the width of a human hair, could get into the bloodstream or caught in gut membranes.

A study published earlier this year in Nature Geoscience found the previous estimate for the amount of plastic in the oceans – five trillion pieces – was a gross underestimate.

The researchers found that one river in Manchester had the highest micropollution discovered anywhere in the world and that floods in that area two to three years ago drove 40 billion pieces of microplastic into the sea.

Microplastics can come from broken down larger plastic segments and from items that people do not realise contain plastic – such as teabags and cigarette butts.

Primary microplastics called microbeads also used to be common in cosmetic products, but after bans were put in place in many countries, including the UK, France, the US and Canada, most cosmetics companies have phased them out.

Mr Dallas-Chapman, who hopes to work in environmental protection when he finishes his degree, said he expected his study would be consistent with what had been found at French and UK beaches by other researchers in terms of microplastic distribution.

He will be working on the data all summer.

The beaches included in his study are: three sections of St Aubin’s Bay, Grève de Lecq, Bonne Nuit, Gorey, Anne Port, Havre de Pas, La Pulente and L’Etacq.

States of Jersey marine scientist Francis Binney is acting as a supervisor on the project. ‘Gaining a better understanding of the microplastics on our shores and in our coastal waters is very important for Jersey,’ he said. ‘Adam’s project, alongside other research planned and currently being undertaken, will allow us to better understand the levels of pollution that exist locally and begin to determine where it originates from.’

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