A word about terminology—microplastics and nurdles are distinct from one another although often grouped. Nurdles are pre-production plastic, meaning this is how the hydrocarbons (coal, oil, gas), come into our world having been fractured at high heat in towers. The vaporized "stuff" rains down in these little pellets, or are extruded and cut into beads. Microplastics are what is left when the plastic is worn away into slivers by friction or sunlight. Microplastics include the pernicious exfoliant bits called micro-beads in face scrubs and toothpaste. As if that weren't enough, microplastics include the lint from laundering synthetics, esp. fleece articles. Wiki will give you the low-down. 

Nurdles are almost impossible to see until one learns what they are and how to differentiate them from a grain of sand or a fish egg. Once known, one sees numbers of them scattered across the sand. Nurdles are the raw plastic material that is shipped to manufacturers of bottles, car parts, toys, almost anything made of plastic. The real danger with nurdles is their absorptive capability. They are tiny magnets for metabolites, PCB's, breakdown products of DDT—DDE and other dioxin-like substances. They are poisonous little bombs loaded with tens of 1000's of times more poison than the ambient sea, and because they are translucent they are mistaken for fish eggs, they enter the food chain. 

Hideshige Takada at Tokyo University and his International Pellet Watch invites beach combers to send nurdles for chemical analysis. Here are charts showing what is in our nurdles from Kehoe Beach. Although DDT has been banned in the United States since 1972, it is still showing up in the nurdles we find.

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