(WSVN) - Trash in our waterways is an obvious problem, but scientists fear we are overloading our oceans and rivers with pollution we cannot see or smell. Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s 7 Investigates.

When you hit the beach, you can’t miss it. Plastic litter is everywhere.

But how much plastic floating in these waves is so small, it’s invisible to the naked eye.

Dr. Puspa Adhikari, Florida Gulf Coast University marine chemist: “It’s there, everywhere.”

Dr. Adhikari is a marine chemist at Florida Gulf Coast University.

In his Fort Myers lab, he and his students have been studying samples from nearby Estero Bay. They’re finding the samples are loaded with microplastics, which are tiny pieces of broken down plastic.

Kevin Ozebek: “Have you ever had a sample you looked at that was clear of microplastics?”

Brianna Davis, FGCU student: “No. There’s always been at least 100 microplastics within the samples that I have found.”

After the 7 Investigates team heard of the alarming discoveries in this lab, we asked if they would analyze water from our coast.

They agreed.

Kevin Ozebek, South Beach: “All right, so sample number one we are going to collect from the Second Street beach here on South Beach.”

Kevin, Miami: “Just collected sample two. We took it from Biscayne Bay from Morningside Park in Miami.”

Kevin Ozebek, Fort Lauderdale: “Sample number three is from the New River in Fort Lauderdale.”

Kevin Ozebek, Deerfield Beach: “Sample number four, from the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier.”

Those samples were then pushed through filter paper that catches the microplastics.

Davis checked each piece of paper under a high powered microscope, starting with the sample from South Beach.

Brianna: “It’s so easy to just find them because they’re just everywhere.”

Davis quickly finds this microscopic thread, likely a piece of synthetic fabric.

Brianna: “That is a microplastic. That is a fiber that has come from someone’s piece of clothing through the laundry and just wasn’t filtered out.”

Then she spots four more synthetic micro threads.

Kevin Ozebek: “This is what we’re swimming in?”

Brianna: “Yep.”

Next, she checks the Biscayne Bay, New River and Deerfield Beach samples.

Within minutes of scanning each one, she identifies microplastics. Some are bright red, others jet black, and a few are tiny pieces of clear plastic.

Kevin: “Are you ever shocked when you look at a sample?

Brianna: “No.”

Kevin: “Because you’re so used to seeing so much plastic now?

Brianna: “Yes, and not even a small amount.”

While scientists may no longer be shocked that microplastics are in our environment, this year, scientists found microplastics in human blood.

A study done in the Netherlands showed microplastics were in the bloodstreams of 17 out of the 22 people studied.

How this could impact their health remains unknown.

Dr. Puspa Adhikari: “It will ultimately, you know, sooner or later, get into our body.”

Dr. Adhikari says it’s impossible to remove microplastics from our rivers and oceans, so the best thing we can do is not leave trash behind.

One piece of plastic dropped on the beach today could be billions of pieces of microplastics decades down the line.

Kevin Ozebek, 7News.


Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox