Aquatiere have filtered through the news to bring you a monthly round up of the latest headlines and developments in water filtration, treatment, and conservation.
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts have discovered that a tiny type of zooplankton can chew up and spit out microplastics. It is well-known that plastic particles litter our seas and waterways. When these plastic pieces are less than five millimetres long they are classified as microplastics. Small bits of plastic waste such as microbeads in exfoliants form these microplastics. The microscopic plankton known as rotifers, break down the microplastics into nanoplastics. However, this is problematic as nanoplastics are potentially more toxic than microplastics. As the particles have been fragmented further, their toxicity is enhanced and the release of chemical additives increased. This is a worrying discovery, especially as rotifers break up plastic particles at an alarming rate. We’ll report back on this story in a future monthly round up.
It seems that microplastics are all around us, as scientists have even found plastic particles in the clouds. Tiny specs of plastic were found in the clouds above Eastern China by a group of scientists from Shandong University. Another study in Japan revealed that microplastics were found at the top of Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama. The results from this study suggest that the particles may have come from plastics in the ocean and been transported through the air. What’s more, scientists have come to the conclusion that these microplastics can affect cloud formation and our weather systems. On top of climate change, it seems that we are in for strange weather!
It’s not all doom and gloom, as technology has come to the rescue. Researchers at two universities in the Czech Republic recently created biohybrid microrobots that potentially could remove micro- and nano-plastics from polluted water without adding to the pollution problem. The new robots are otherwise known as magnetic algae robots (MARs), and are created from a combination of algae and environmentally friendly magnetic nanoparticles. The microrobots achieved a high success rate of 92% removal for nanoplastics and 70% for microplastics.
Photographer Mark Barrow has been documenting the River Wharfe in Yorkshire as part of an underwater photography project. The project explores the river’s aquatic life, from its source at Beckermonds in the Yorkshire Dales, through to the Humber estuary. Barrow recently returned to the site only to find that much had changed and not for the better. The photographer reported that the river water was cloudy with pollution. Not only that, but the local fish populations had been affected. Where there were once shoals of fish, now there are but a few. Barrow is in the process of editing a documentary highlighting the plight of the river, hoping that something might be done about it. Fingers crossed the documentary gets the right exposure for the sake of the river’s aquatic life.
The number of people complaining of feeling unwell after being in sea or river water has more than doubled in the last year. Reports of illness due to water exposure have flooded into Surfers Against Sewage’s (SAS) headquarters. In the group’s annual report 1,924 people experienced “sewage sickness” after being in UK waters between October 2022 and September 2023. The figure is up from 720 reports being filed in the previous year. It’s no coincidence that during the bathing season of 2023, The Water Quality Report found there were 301,091 sewage discharges in England.
That’s all for this month’s round up. Check back in December, for more on water pollution, conservation news and technology updates…