Microbeads pollute the Ottawa and Rideau rivers

Microbeads found in toothpastes, facial scrubs, and other personal care items are taking a toll on the Ottawa River.

A recent study from Ottawa Riverkeeper and Carleton University found that the river is “significantly” polluted by these microplastics. Scientists worked together to collect samples across the 550 km of the Ottawa River and parts of the Rideau. Microplastics were found in every sample.

These small bits of plastic are dangerous to the environment as they take several hundred years to fully break down, causing them to absorb and hold on to contaminants from the water like small sponges.

The microplastics are then ingested by animals that live in the water, which some studies have shown cause these animals to become sick. It is also harmful to humans who eat fish, as the toxins in the microplastics remain in them for consumption.

But this problem isn’t contained just to the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers. Because they are connected to the St. Lawrence, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean, these microplastics can travel throughout the waterway and have a widespread impact.