Plastics and Synthetic Fibers Dirtying San Francisco Bay

     (CN) – The San Francisco Bay is being contaminated by plastic microbeads and clothing fibers, and the waste is being found inside fish caught off California’s coast according to a pair of environmental studies released last week.
     UC Davis researchers bought seafood, including salmon and cod, from several Northern California fish markets and studied the stomach contents of the fish. The study found synthetic clothing materials in 25 percent of the total fish sampled and in 67 percent of all species tested.
     The study released Sept. 24 blamed sewage treatment plants and home laundry systems that spew synthetic clothing fibers into the San Francisco Bay, which are eventually consumed by fish and shellfish. According to the study, there are more than 200 sewage treatment plants “discharging billions of liters of treated [water]” just offshore in California.
     In a separate study , scientists at the San Francisco Estuary Institute found the San Francisco Bay receives 3.9 million pieces of plastic daily from over 40 sewage plants and that microplastic levels in the bay are significantly higher than the Great Lakes.
     Water samples from the bay measured 2.6 million microplastic particles of 5 millimeters or smaller per square mile, nine times worse than Lake Erie and 330 times worse than Lake Huron. The study also found the amount of microplastic discharged into the San Francisco Bay from sewage plants to be similar to New York City’s.
     Microbeads and small plastic particles from cosmetics and clothing continue to be an environmental issue and a bill limiting the amount of plastic in cosmetics is awaiting signature from California Gov. Jerry Brown. Assembly Bill 888 passed both houses earlier this month despite intense lobbying and criticism from the cosmetic industry.
     California lawmakers passed a ban on plastic shopping bags in 2014 but voters will decide its fate after opponents of the bill gained enough referendum signatures to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot.