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Plastic microbeads from facial exfoliants make their way into Great Lakes

A sample of plastic microbeads collected in eastern Lake Erie.

A sample of plastic microbeads collected in eastern Lake Erie.

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A new study by the 5Gyres Institute has found an alarming number of plastic beads, smaller than a millimeter, in the Great Lakes.  The source of the polyethylene microbeads are exfoliating face washes and polishing toothpastes. They are rinsed down the drain and pass into the lakes.

The total volume is unknown, but 5Gyres research director, Marcus Erikson, says that the numbers he saw in the Great Lakes are higher than any he's observed anywhere else on the planet.

Mr. Erikson, and his 5Gyres researchers will now study the possibility that the beads function as a vector to transmit toxins such as PCBs, hydrocarbons and industrial chemicals to fish species.

Click 'Listen' to hear Marcus Erikson.

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