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Microplastics in Great Lakes Tributaries


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Description of Work In 2014-15 the U.S. Geological Survey and State University of New York at Fredonia characterized the quantity and morphology of floating microplastics in 29 Great Lakes tributaries in 6 states under different hydrologic conditions, wastewater effluent contributions, land uses, and seasons. Tributaries were sampled four times each, during high-flow and low-flow conditions. Samples were collected from the upper 20-30cm of the stream using a 0.33mm mesh neuston net. Microplastic particles were sorted by size, counted, and categorized as fibers/lines, pellets/beads, foams, films, and fragments. References 1. R. C. Thompson et al., Lost at Sea: Where Is All the Plastic? Science. 304, 838 (2004). 2. E. L. Teuten [...]

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Principal Investigator :
Austin K Baldwin
Lead Organization :
USGS Wisconsin Water Science Center
(other) :
Steven R Corsi

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Microplastics, plastic particles less than 5mm in diameter, are a contaminant of emerging concern in aquatic environments. Microplastics come from numerous sources including microfibers from synthetic clothing, microbeads in household cleaners, cosmetics, and personal care products, and the breakdown of larger plastic litter such as Styrofoam, plastic bags and wrappers, and cigarette butts. These particles are ingested by invertebrates, turtles, mammals, and fish (1-4). Ingestion has been shown to cause obstruction of the digestive system (3) and nutritional deprivation (2, 5), as well as uptake and bioaccumulation of endocrine disruptors and other harmful chemicals associated with the plastic (2, 4, 6). Results from this study will contribute to our understanding of both the magnitude and sources of microplastic pollution in rivers in the Great Lakes Basin.

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