Microplastics research—from sink to source

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Science  06 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6384, pp. 28-29
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7734

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  • A more fundamental microplastics issue
    • Robert A. Michaels, Toxicologist consulting in human health risk assessment, RAM TRAC Corporation

    Describing research on microplastics pollution in oceans, rivers, lakes, and terrestrial environments, Chelsea M. Rochman (6 April 2018) ignores the more fundamental issue of the permissive regulatory environment that allowed such pollution to occur despite warnings as early as the 1970s. The field of ‘emerging contaminants’ is replete with examples of substances that entered commerce, and thence the environment and human bodies, in earlier eras (Michaels 2017). To prevent such history from repeating, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed in 1970 as a focal point for our newly acquired environmental awareness. By 1970 this development should have shifted the burden of proof: unlike people in a democracy, potentially risk-posing chemicals should be assumed guilty and deemed ineligible for release until proven innocent. The fact that we now face the emerging human and economic costs of this legacy of pollution by microplastics and by other contaminants should remind EPA that pro-active regulation ultimately is likely to be more humane and more economical than inaction, or than retro-active damage control.

    Michaels, Robert A. Lessons learned from legacy contaminants of emerging concern: perfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) in the Village of Hoosick Falls, Rensselaer County, New York. Environmental Claims Journal, 29(1):4-48,, February 20...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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