Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microplastic pollution discovered in St. Lawrence River sediments

19.09.2014

Previously undocumented in North American rivers, concentrations of microplastic particles in the St. Lawrence are as high as has been observed in the world’s most contaminated marine sediments.

A team of researchers from McGill University and the Quebec government have discovered microplastics (in the form of polyethylene ‘microbeads’, <2 mm diameter) widely distributed across the bottom of the St. Lawrence River, the first time such pollutants have been found in freshwater sediments. Their research was published this month in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.


Caption: Microbeads collected from St. Lawrence River sediments in summer 2013. (Photo by Guy l’Heureux)

The microbeads likely originate from cosmetics, household cleansers, or industrial cleansers, to which they are commonly added as abrasives. Owing to their small size and buoyancy, they may readily pass through sewage treatment plants.  Microplastics are a global contaminant in the world’s oceans, but have only recently been detected in the surface waters of lakes and rivers.

Researchers lowered a steel grab from a boat to collect sediment from ten locations along a 320 km section of the river from Lake St. Francis to Québec City.  Microbeads were sieved from the sediment, and then sorted and counted under a microscope. “We found them in nearly every grab sample taken. The perfect multi-coloured spheres stood out from natural sediment, even though they were the size of sand grains,” said the lead author of the study, Rowshyra Castañeda, a former McGill MSc student (now at University of Toronto).

At some locations, the researchers measured over 1000 microbeads per liter of sediment, a magnitude that rivals the world’s most contaminated ocean sediments.  “We were surprised to find such concentrations at the bottom of a river”, says McGill professor Anthony Ricciardi, who supervised the study. “It was previously assumed that floating microplastics are flushed through rivers to the sea. Now we have evidence that rivers can act as a sink for this pollution.”  

The prevalence of microplastics in the St. Lawrence River raises the possibility that they are being consumed by fish and other animals.  The environmental effects of microplastics are poorly known; but the surfaces of such particles attract chemical pollutants, including PCBs, which can be transferred to animals that ingest the plastics.  “At present, we cannot predict the consequences of the accumulation of these non-biodegradable particles in freshwater ecosystems” added Ricciardi, whose lab is investigating whether the microbeads are being consumed by fish in the river.

With growing recognition of microplastics as an emerging threat to waterways, some U.S. states (Illinois, New York, Minnesota, Ohio, and California) have recently adopted or are considering legislation that bans the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics. No such legislation has yet been proposed in Canada.

To access the full article:
R.A. Castañeda, S. Avlijas, M.A. Simard, A. Ricciardi. 2014. “Microplastic pollution in St. Lawrence River sediments”. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/cjfas-2014-0281 

Media contacts:
Dr. Anthony Ricciardi 
514-398-4089
tony.ricciardi@mcgill.ca  

Rowshyra Castañeda (French interviews)
514-497-3754
rowshyra.castaneda@mail.mcgill.ca

About the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Published since 1901 (under various titles), the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (CJFAS) is one of the world’s top fisheries journals and is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. CJFAS is published by Canadian Science Publishing and is part of the prestigious NRC Research Press journal collection.
 
Disclaimer: Canadian Science Publishing (CSP) publishes the NRC Research Press journals but is not affiliated with the National Research Council of Canada. Papers published by CSP are peer-reviewed by experts in their field. The views of the authors in no way reflect the opinions of CSP or the NRC. Requests for commentary about the contents of any study should be directed to the authors.)

Jenny Ryan | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.cdnsciencepub.com/news-and-events/press-releases/CJFAS_PR_microbeads.aspx

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

Im Focus: Artificial Enzymes for Hydrogen Conversion

Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.

Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

New quantum phenomena in graphene superlattices

19.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A simple additive to improve film quality

19.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>