A new study is saying that the San Francisco Bay has higher concentrations of plastic contamination than any other major body of water in the United States.
At least 3.9 million pieces of plastic pour into the bay every day from eight large sewage treatment plants -- a relentless torrent of litter that ranges from tiny "microbeads" found in cosmetics, facial scrubs and toothpastes, to bits of synthetic fabric from fleece jackets, pants and other clothes, which break down as they are washed.
"We're concerned about these high levels. This was unexpected," said Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nonprofit research center based in Richmond.
The problem is bad. Very bad.
They found on average 1 million pieces of tiny plastic per square kilometer -- an area of about 250 acres -- at the water's surface or a few inches below it in the South Bay, a concentration nine times higher than levels of similar plastics found in Lake Erie.
Further north, off Oakland and San Francisco, they found 310,000 pieces per square kilometer, still double the highest levels in Chesapeake Bay and triple the levels in Lake Erie, the most polluted of the Great Lakes. [Emphasis added]
This is not simply a problem for the ocean. As many of you know, many human beings eat things that grow or live in the ocean. In the short term the best defense is trying very hard to (a) not throw plastics into your toilet and (b) try not to buy cosmetics, "scrubs," toothpastes with "microbeads" or "exfoliants" in them.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers passed a bill earlier this month that would ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics and other personal care products sold in California. The bill, AB 888, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, would impose the ban starting Jan. 1, 2020.
Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated if he will sign or veto the bill, the toughest such ban in the nation.
We will have to get on Gov. Brown to make sure he does what's right.