A Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Initiative

Fall Workshop: The Science of Microplastics in the World Ocean

October 15-18, 2019

A major hidden problem

Microplastics—tiny plastic fragments less than five millimeters in size—are ubiquitous in the global ocean. In fact, an estimated eight million tons of plastics enter our oceans each year, yet only one percent can be seen floating at the surface. Where the rest ends up is not well understood.

What are the health risks?

Marine animals like scallops and oysters ingest microplastics, and are later consumed by humans. As microplastics make their way through the food chain, do they pose a health risk to animals and humans?

Sizing up the problem

WHOI is embarking on a long-term, interdisciplinary investigation of marine microplastics to understand the fate of microplastics drifting through the ocean, gauge their impacts on marine life and human health, and engineer new technology solutions needed to push the science forward.

How do plastics break down?

What happens to microplastics?

What are the health impacts?

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