NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) — Cities up and down the coast of California are becoming increasingly vigilant about single-use plastic and how they pollute the oceans and waterways – but the more insidious culprit might be what can’t be seen by the naked eye.

A new study from a think tank, 5 Gyres, has found that more than 7 trillion pieces of micro plastic enters the San Francisco Bay every year, and trying to stop one source of that pollution will be particularly difficult for Californians because it’s coming from car tires.

“Almost half the particles were these teeny tiny black rubbery particles and we’ve analyzed a few of them with a special technique to show that they are tire tread rubber,” said Dr. Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute.

That’s half the plastic particles polluting California waterways and beaches. In the Los Angeles River, one scientist has found contaminants no bigger than a grain of salt – the microbeads that are found in many soaps, body scrubs and toothpastes that exfoliate or polish.

(credit: CBS)

These microbeads wash down the drain and into the ocean, where they soak up pesticides and chemicals before they are eaten by fish, according to scientists.

“We now know the fish that we harvest from our great lakes are eating these microbeads, ends up on your dinner plate,” scientist Marcus Eriksen said. “It’s going from your face, right back into your body.”

It’s the equivalent of eating a credit card a week, scientists say.

“I didn’t even know that. You think about plastics like water bottles, you don’t think about it being, like, small enough to be in your air that you’re breathing,” tourist Ana Garcia said.

There is a move to ban products that contain microbeads, but the tires is a bigger problem and scientists can only suggest more people rideshare.


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