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Close-up shot of sea surface with small waves
The Constellation of Creatures Inhabiting the Ocean Surface
The myriad species floating atop the world’s seas, called neuston, are mysterious and understudied, complicating efforts to clean up plastic pollution.
The Constellation of Creatures Inhabiting the Ocean Surface
The Constellation of Creatures Inhabiting the Ocean Surface

The myriad species floating atop the world’s seas, called neuston, are mysterious and understudied, complicating efforts to clean up plastic pollution.

The myriad species floating atop the world’s seas, called neuston, are mysterious and understudied, complicating efforts to clean up plastic pollution.

microplastics
Illustration showing where neuston reside
Infographic: Neuston Drift Atop the World’s Oceans
Amanda Heidt | Jan 2, 2023 | 1 min read
The sea surface is home to a diverse group of animals adapted to life in the open ocean, but increasingly, they’re sharing that space with plastic debris.
Calm lake reflecting sky with boat in foreground
Plastic Pollution Boosts Bacterial Growth in Lake Water
Patience Asanga | Jul 26, 2022 | 3 min read
A study finds that not only did aquatic bacteria thrive when chemicals washed from degrading plastic were introduced into lake water, they also broke down organic matter more efficiently.
Close-up of a fiber with brightly colored pathogens beside it
Microplastics in Seawater May Harbor Parasites
Christie Wilcox, PhD | Apr 26, 2022 | 2 min read
Laboratory experiments find that Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia can congregate on microplastic beads and fibers, suggesting they might make their way into and around the world’s oceans by hitching rides on tiny bits of trash.
Photograph showing plastic waste polluting the beach
Book Excerpt from Thicker Than Water
Erica Cirino | Oct 1, 2021 | 4 min read
In Chapter 5, "Pick Up the Pieces," author Erica Cirino investigates the potential health risks of the small plastic particles that permeate the planet.
Problem plastic bottles and microplastics floating in the open ocean
Opinion: Plastic Pollution May Endanger Brains
Erica Cirino | Oct 1, 2021 | 3 min read
Plastic waste pervades every ecosystem on Earth and is likely affecting neurobiology as well.
Baby Bottles Can Shed Millions of Microplastic Particles: Study
Max Kozlov | Oct 19, 2020 | 5 min read
The project did not assess any implications for children’s health, but the authors recommend changing up how parents use baby bottles to reduce the amount of plastic in formula or breastmilk.
microplastics drinking water
Microplastics in Drinking Water Don’t Threaten Human Health: WHO
Ashley P. Taylor | Aug 22, 2019 | 2 min read
A new report finds no evidence of a current danger from microplastics, but the World Health Organization urges further research.
Organic Fertilizers Rife With Microplastics: Study
Shawna Williams | Apr 4, 2018 | 2 min read
Converting biowaste to plant food is an overlooked source of tiny plastic pollutants, researchers say.
Contributors
Diana Kwon | Jun 1, 2017 | 3 min read
Meet some of the people featured in the June 2017 issue of The Scientist.
Plastic Pollutants Pervade Water and Land
Ee Ling Ng | Jun 1, 2017 | 10+ min read
Contamination of marine and terrestrial ecosystems by microplastics is putting individual organisms at risk.
Infographic: Plastic Pollution
Ee Ling Ng | May 31, 2017 | 1 min read
Both macroplastic items, such as bags, bottles, and other packaging, and products containing micro- and nanoplastic particles—from cosmetics to paints—contaminate the Earth’s ecosystems.
Infographic: Plastics’ Effects
Ee Ling Ng | May 31, 2017 | 1 min read
Lab studies suggest that plastic pollutants in the environment could have detrimental effects on animals’ physiology.
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