OTTAWA, August 10, 2016 _ The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is calling on the federal government to support critical research projects analyzing the environmental impacts of plastic pollution in our waterways.
“We need government to recognize the larger and growing issue of microplastics and to establish immediate funding resources for science and research to determine the impact of microbead pollution,” says Rick Bates, CEO of CWF. “This research and science is necessary to establish the extent of the harm to our waters and to address the numerous other sources of microplastics that continue to pollute our lakes, rivers and oceans.”
While Bates is thankful the federal government has taken an important first step in adding one form of plastics known as microbeads to the List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, he says this is just the beginning of the actions needed to keep wildlife safe, Bates says in the petition.
New fieldwork, supported by CWF and lead by McGill University, is beginning in August 2016 to determine:
- The diversity, abundance and sources of microplastics in the sediments and surface waters of the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and its tributaries
- The extent to which microplastics are consumed by aquatic animals (fish and mollusks)
- How patterns of consumption are affected by the composition and concentration of plastics in sediments and water
- How the presence of these contaminants in lakes and rivers can be monitored accurately and efficiently to evaluate the effectiveness of regulatory efforts
CWF is committed to understanding the extent to which plastics are infiltrating our waterways, as well as how they are affecting the wildlife that live there. CWF is also studying:
- Materials that entangle the Steller Sea Lion (including plastic)
- How chemical contaminants in the St. Lawrence affect the Beluga Whale
- Marine mammal emergencies
CWF is encouraging the public to sign a petition urging the federal government to support more research to determine and address the scope and severity of Canada’s plastic pollution problems. CWF has also developed an online survey for Canadians to share their environmental concerns related to the health of our waterways.
“Plastic doesn’t go away it just breaks down over long periods of time into smaller and smaller pieces that can cause big problems for wildlife that consume or get entangled in them,” Bates says.
Visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca for more information and to get involved.
Heather Robison, Media and Community Relations Officer, Canadian Wildlife Federation
firstname.lastname@example.org: 1-877-599-5777 x 212
Nicolas Lapointe, Senior Conservation Biologist - Freshwater Ecology, Canadian Wildlife Federation
email@example.com: 613-858-8215 (cell)
Canada has 202,000 km of coastline along three oceans and 891,163 square kilometres of its total area covered by fresh water. Unfortunately, those waters are under threat from a growing environmental concern known as microplastics. These tiny plastic particles are less than six millimetres in diameter. Many of the microplastics in our waterways come from plastic litter that has broken down into smaller bits. However, there are many other sources of microplastics and these pollutants are finding their way into water supplies through litter, cosmetic products, industry and synthetic fabrics.
About 60 to 80 per cent of the litter in our oceans is estimated to be petroleum-based plastic. When all those plastic products make their way into our waterways, they break down into smaller plastics and pollute the habitat of thousands of species. With global plastic consumption increasing by about five per cent a year, the plastic pollution problem continues to grow.
Cosmetics and cleaning products:
Body scrubs, exfoliating cleansers, toothpaste and microdermabrasion kits often contain microbeads. These tiny microbeads are so small they are described in micrometres (that's a thousandth of a millimetre). These microbeads may not get filtered out during sewage treatment so they end up being released directly into our oceans, lakes and rivers. Adding microbeads to the list of toxic substances will help to prevent further damage to our environment, but the microbeads already in the water continue to endanger wildlife.
Plastic has been manufactured since 1907. In 1950, 1.7 million metric tons was being produced. In 2013, production rose to 299 million metric tons.
Factories around the world often use plastic pellets or powder to make packaging, bags, plastic bottles and also caps. These microplastics can accidentally spill into the ocean as they are shipped from one port to the next. Train derailments or rail car tip-overs also spill microplastics as these can run off the ground and into local waterways.
Synthetic fibers (clothing, tarps, etc.):
Every time you wash synthetic clothing like polyester, nylon, or rayon in the washing machine, approximately 2,000 fibres end up in the wastewater. These miniscule fibres often evade waste treatment facilities and end up in our waterways where small organisms can consume them.
Did you know?
- Other pollutants in waterways may attach to microplastics. Studies show that persistent toxic contaminants (e.g. PCBs, PAHs) readily adsorb to microplastics. When these plastics are injested by wildlife the toxins can damage their organs. For example, ingestion of plastic fragments can transfer these contaminants and cause liver damage in fish.
- Microplastics have been found in table salt, honey and beer
CWF encourages the public to sign its plastics petition to urge the Government of Canada to continue to address this issue by funding research into the distribution, abundance, diversity, sources, consumption and monitoring of plastic pollution.
Thank you for designating microbeads as a toxic substance and taking steps to ban them from use in cosmetic and personal care products in Canada! This is just the beginning of the actions needed to keep our environment and wildlife safe from microplastics. We need Government to recognize the larger and growing issue of microplastics and to establish immediate funding resources for science and research to determine the impact of microbead pollution. This research and science is necessary to establish the extent of the harm to our waters and to address the numerous other sources of microplastic which continue to pollute our lakes, rivers and oceans.”