Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paper details plastics pollution in several Great Lakes

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Researchers have released a new paper on microplastics in the Great Lakes and in it they say that the concentration of plastic fragments in many cases exceeds that of the world's oceans.

The paper was written by researchers from the 5 Gyres Institute and SUNY Fredonia and covers samples from Lakes Superior, Huron, and Erie. Erie had the highest concentrations of plastics, says a press release sent out yesterday by the 5 Gyres Institute. The release says that researchers also found aluminum silicate — coal ash, a coal power plant byproduct — particles in the Erie samples. (The paper is available here, but you have to pay to access it.)
City has written about the researchers' work previously. This summer, SUNY Fredonia associate professor of chemistry Sam Mason led a group of University at Buffalo students in an effort to collect Lake Ontario samples. In August, Mason said that she expected to analyze the samples over a six-month period, and would be able to better compare them to the other lakes after that. However, she said that she saw microplastics in the Lake Ontario sample. And since Ontario is the last Great Lake in the chain, there's a good chance that its plastic concentrations could be among the worst.

Researchers have said that they are concerned about the impact that plastics pollution, particularly microplastics, could have on the health of fish and other marine wildlife.

They've identified microplastics — tiny beads often found in personal care products like exfoliating facewashes — as a particular problem, since water treatment plants do not appear to filter them out of waste water. They've convinced several large consumer goods companies to phase out the use of microbeads in their products. The 5 Gyres Institute press release refers consumers to http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/ to find out whether a product contains microbeads.

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