Nancy Cunningham, Jennifer MCKay and Adam Kennedy with microbead products.

Nancy Cunningham, Jennifer MCKay and Adam Kennedy with microbead products.

Our guest speaker on February 11, 2015, was Jennifer McKay, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council Policy Specialist, who told us about plastic microbeads and coal-tar sealant PAHs that find their way into our water.

Microbeads of plastic, used in hundreds of cosmetic and personal care products, such as soaps and toothpaste, are finding their way into the Great Lakes waterways. Their small size and buoyancy allow them to slip through water treatment systems. They look like food and are consumed by fish and birds. The microbeads are not biodegradable and act as magnets for other contaminants, such as arsenic and DDT. So not only are they toxic to wildlife, they are toxic to humans who consume wildlife around the Great Lakes region.

 

 

 

Photograph credit: 5 Gyres Institute.

Photograph credit: 5 Gyres Institute.

What can we do about it?  Avoid products with polyethylene and polypropylene on labels and choose products with alternatives like ground almonds, sea salt, pumice and oatmeal. Unwanted personal care products can be dropped off at local POD drop off locations including one at Boyne City Hall. For additional POD drop off sites: www.pillsinthepod.com.  Also, The Watershed Council website has detailed information on microbeads: www.watershedcouncil.org/learn/microbeads-in-the-great-lakes.

 

 

 

A professional applicator applies a coal-tar-based sealant to a test plot used to measure emission of polycyclic aromatic carbons (PAHs) into the air in Austin at the University of Texas.  Photograph credit: Justin McInnis, U.S. Geological Survey.

A professional applicator applies a coal-tar-based sealant to a test plot used to measure emission of polycyclic aromatic carbons (PAHs) into the air in Austin at the University of Texas. Photograph credit: Justin McInnis, U.S. Geological Survey.

Jennifer also discussed studies that have identified coal-tar-base sealcoat—a product used to maintain and protect driveway and parking lot pavement—as a major source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in streams and lakes adjacent to where it is used. Before sealcoating the driveway, consider the impact coal-tar sealcoating may have on water quality and human health. Details on PAHs and alternatives are found at: www.watershedcouncil.org/learn/coal-tar-sealant-and-pah-contamination.