Lions, Tigers, and Bears Oh My! Have Nothing on the Plastics Invisible to the Naked Eye

plastic wave

Our water quality reality if we do not change our plastic use practices. Credit: Bonnie Monteleone (Artist)

Sometimes the scariest things are not haunted houses, the black bear near our campsite, or the Lake Erie monster roaming our shores, but rather the things we cannot easily see. If you have been watching the news lately you may be aware of these tiny particles called microplastics. Although tiny in size (5mm or smaller), they are causing a global crisis. Each year we add 8 million tons of plastic to the ocean and 22 million tons to the Great Lakes, with this number expected to increase each year. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish, and most of these plastics can only be seen with the use of a microscope.

Several studies have been conducted over the past several years addressing microplastics in organisms such as zooplankton and fish. Zooplankton and fish are shown to eat microplastics. Some of the pieces leave the body through excretion but some remain. The most current research is showing that the plastic is starting to affect how these organisms behave. Plastic ingestion has shown to alter the feeding, growth, and reproductive patterns of copepods, one of the world’s most common types of plankton and the bottom of the aquatic food web. A study conducted on fish has shown that plastics in their brain cause them to eat slower and move less.

Plastic waste - where it comes from

A diagram showing where this plastic waste is coming from and how much is created and added to the ocean each year. (Credit: Ocean Conservancy)

So we know plastic is not healthy for fish and plankton, but what about us? I’m glad you asked. Plastic has recently been found in several foods such as salt (sea salt has the highest concentration of microplastics of any of the food or liquids tested) and honey. It has also been found in beer and most alarmingly our drinking water. Bottled water has twice as much plastic contamination as tap water. The added contamination in bottled water comes from the production and placement of a plastic cap on a bottle of water. Plastic is also in the air we breathe. So we know it is in our food, drinks, and air, but does that mean it is in us? You betcha! Plastic was recently found in human waste in a study conducted in Austria.

So is this bad? Good? Sorry I don’t have the answers for you yet since this research is being conducted right now. However, we do know plastics leach chemicals that are cancer causing and disrupt our hormonal balances. And we do know that plastic affects the day to day operations of other living organisms. So it is safe to say that having plastic in your body is most likely not a good thing.

I know I have given you a lot of bleak information about this plastic situation, but there are simple steps you can take every day to limit your plastic contamination.

How can you stay as safe as possible?

  1. If you have access to safe tap water, it is a better option than bottled water in regards to plastic contamination.
  2. Switch to glass or metal drinking and eating containers.
  3. If you do use plastic, make sure you do not put hot items in the container or heat the container. Heating plastic causes the chemicals in the plastic to leach into your food or beverage.
  4. Use reusable items as much as possible to prevent future contamination of our drinking water.
  5. Say “no” to unnecessary single-use items such as straws, utensils, and bags. Bring your own or simply don’t use the single-use plastic item.
  6. Share what you are learning with others.
Zero waste starter kit

Zero waste starter kit. Credit: The Green Bicycle Co.


8 million tons: Ocean Conservancy. Fighting for Trash Free Seas. Website:

copepods: Cole, M. 2014. The impacts of microplastics on zooplankton. Thesis for degree in Doctor of Philosophy for the University of Exeter.

study conducted on fish: Cedervall, T. 2017. Brain damage in fish affected by plastic nanoparticles. News and Press Releases. Lund University. Website:

drinking water: Bingham, M. 2018. Water: Tap, Bottled and Microplastics. Orb in the Word. Website:

human waste: Parker, L. 2018. In a first, microplastics found in human poop. National Geographic. Website:

The content of this site is published by the site owner(s) and is not a statement of advice, opinion, or information pertaining to The Ohio State University. Neither text, nor links to other websites, is reviewed or endorsed by The Ohio State University.

Jill BartolottaJill Bartolotta is an Extension educator for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Community Economics Programs for Ohio (and beyond!)

The economy is humming. You may have heard recently in the news, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the addition of 250,000 new jobs in October, topping the 118,000 jobs created in September. More likely, you have seen the “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs posted in your community and throughout your travels.

Even better, the Labor Department reported that average hourly earnings increased again in October, from 2.8 percent in September and to 3.1 percent on the year. This is the largest quarterly wage gain in ten years.

David Civittolo and Eric Romich discuss the Business Retention & Expansion program as a community economics tool

Serving as a model for the world, the U.S. economic system was the subject of study during a recent three-week, multi-state visit coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Special American Business Internship Training (SABIT) program. The SABIT program builds partnerships and provides technical assistance through training Eurasian business leaders in U.S. business practices.

The SABIT visit involved a 19-member delegation from many of the former Soviet bloc countries such as: Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia. The individuals represented academic institutions, regional/state/local governments, and national business associations (e.g. ‘chambers of commerce’).

As part of the SABIT program, Ohio State University Extension CD professionals were invited to share more about the ways Extension partners with communities, agencies, and organizations in pursuit of local and regional strategies for economic development. The delegates were particularly interested in learning more about our role in:

  • Cultivating and facilitating regional collaboration and partnership frameworks (e.g. advisory/planning committee approach)
  • Identifying and supporting industry clusters
  • Community and organizational strategic planning
  • Workforce development
  • Business incubators, and
  • Building capacity of elected officials

    Myra Wilson and Eric Romich discuss Extension’s involvement in workforce development

Working through interpreters, we discussed the land-grant system, Extension, and shared recent examples of how we engage others through the application of a wide variety of community economics programs and tools. After spending a couple of hours together, they were particularly interested in learning more about how they could strengthen their partnerships with academic institutions to inform research, teaching, and engagement efforts.

Despite the language barrier, there were many questions and the discussion was lively. Some of the delegates even inquired about returning to the U.S. to study and learn more. Others were eager to extend invitations to visit them in their home countries. Collaboration truly knows no boundaries!

In short, no matter where you are, we serve to partner with you and your community to share, learn, and identify ways to strengthen the local and regional economy.

You can learn the numerous ways we might work with you throughout these blog pages. To better understand the range of what is possible, take a look at the ‘Tags’ which highlight the content found here and feel free to contact the post’s author for more info. Or contact me directly at or 614-292-5942.

Greg DavisGreg Davis is a Professor and Assistant Director, OSU Extension – Community Development.

Mixing Agriculture in with Community and Youth

Ohio State University Extension is made up of several different disciplines, but they can all be intertwined into one program if we put our heads together. One example of this is a program which was developed in Adams, Brown, and Highland Counties a few years ago, called Ag Reality. Becky Cropper and Nikki Eyre were the 4-H educators, and David Dugan and John Grimes were the Agriculture and Natural Resources educators at that time in the respective counties. Becky Cropper was also the CD educator in Brown.

Young farmerThis group of educators worked with the Farm Service Agency and local high school agriculture teachers to develop a spinoff of the 4-H program Reality Check, now known as Real Money Real World. The program began with three high school agriculture programs, utilizing the juniors in the program. Each school had between 10 and 20 students that were our first students in the program.

Frankie Stith Scott and Rita Polley work with youth and adults for agricultural loans through the USDA Farm Service Agency. Frankie and Rita worked with the schools and set up a two-day training for the students. The students were trained on using budgets, farm account records, and other basics for record keeping on a farm. This training was conducted within a week prior to the full program.

Ohio farmThe full program was conducted at a central location in which students from all three schools attended. The full program simulation was basically farming for a day. The students were presented with a family situation, like married with no children or married with two children, and a family living expense was attached. They were also given a budget based on their grade point average to go along with the 300 acre farm on which to conduct business. There were seven different farms to operate given out randomly. Some were all tillable; some were partially tillable and partially wood lots. Some farms had one house, some had two, and one farm had no house. Once they had all of this to ponder, we turned them loose to farm and live.

This is where the community came in. Several business people including: insurance for crop and property, bankers, grain buyers, farm stores, cattle buyers, fertilizer and seed sales, and more. The students conducted business with these community businesses throughout the day.

The learning and strategy was amazing. The students did a great job of interacting with the businesses. The business people were impressed with the drive to excel that they saw from some students. Some later commented that they actually did business with some of the students in the weeks following the program. The students worked together in some instances, renting houses out to those that did not own a home. They bought equipment together in some cases.

We also had an auction of farm equipment. The list of items to be sold were given to the students prior to the program. A PowerPoint presentation rolled through the list of items to be auctioned during the morning. An auctioneer came in just before lunch, and we conducted an auction of the items on the list. The auctioneer explained how an auction works, and we discussed each item once it sold.

Of course a real Reality would not seem real if there were not taxes to be paid. The county Auditor was present to collect taxes during the day. We also had a logger there trying to buy all of the timber as cheap as possible.

At the end of the day we pulled a year from our history. We used the data from the National Ag Statistics Service to calculate yields and prices on crops. We then explained crop insurance, contracting grain, the value of getting bids on your timber, and much more.

This program started nearly 15 years ago. We now do a separate program in each of the three counties, and each high school in the three counties participates. Many of the same business people continue to assist with the program. We typically do the programs between November and March. If you would like to know more about the program, contact David Dugan at  or call 937-544-2339.

Dave DuganDavid Dugan, educator, ANR/CD, OSU Extension-Adams County.