Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Polluting Plastic Particles Invade the Great Lakes

10.04.2013
Floating plastic debris — which helps populate the infamous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in the Pacific Ocean — has become a problem in the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world. Scientists reported on the latest findings from the Great Lakes here today at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.
“The massive production of plastic and inadequate disposal has made plastic debris an important and constant pollutant on beaches and in oceans around the world, and the Great Lakes are not an exception,” said Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, Ph.D., who spoke on the topic at the meeting. It continues here through Thursday, with 12,000 presentations on new advances in science and other topics.

Fish and birds could be harmed from accidentally eating the plastic particles, or absorbing substances that leach out into the water, Rios said. Her team knows from analyses of fish stomachs that fish are consuming the plastic particles. Fish also could pass such substances to consumers, but Rios said research on that topic is just beginning.

Much of the plastic pollution in the oceans and Great Lakes goes unnoticed by the casual observer because it is so small. In the samples Rios’ team collected in Lake Erie, 85 percent of the particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Her group found between 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.

Fish, however, often mistake these bits of plastic for food. “The main problem with these plastic sizes is its accessibility to freshwater organisms that can be easily confused as natural food and the total surface area for adsorption of toxins and pseudo-estrogens increases significantly,” Rios said. It is not yet understood whether these toxins enter the food chain in harmful amounts.

Rios also pointed out that the problem of ocean plastics is quickly growing. Plastic production has increased 500 percent since 1980, and plastics now account for 80 to 90 percent of ocean pollution, according to Rios. Some of this comes from plastic bags, bottles and other trash, or from fishing lines. Another source is household products like abrasive facial cleaners or synthetic fibers shed by clothes in the washing machine. The researchers also found large numbers of plastic pellets, which are shipped around the world to be melted down and molded into everything from plastic milk jugs to parts for cars.

The plastic pollution problem may be even worse in the Great Lakes than in the oceans, Rios said. Her team found that the number of microparticles — which are more harmful to marine life because of their small size — was 24 percent higher in the Great Lakes than in samples they collected in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. With a volume equal to 1.65 million Olympic swimming pools, the Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world, and this is the first time that scientists have looked there for plastics.

The problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, however, has been widely known since at least 1988, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first described the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” an area in the North Pacific Ocean where currents have concentrated plastics and other pollution. The patch varies in dimensions, but estimates indicate that at times it has been twice the size of the state of Texas.

The authors acknowledge funding from the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

CONTACT:
Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Superior, Wisc. 54880
Phone: 715-394-8205
Email: lriosmen@uwsuper.edu
Abstract
The presence of hydrophobic organic pollutants is an environmental issue because of their toxicity and persistence in the same way that plastic debris is a constant pollutant on beaches and water bodies around the planet. The production of cheap plastic items is massive. The incidence and accumulation of microplastics create significant risks to the ocean and now in the Great Lakes environment because of the known potential of these microplastics to adsorb persistent organic pollutants that can harm aquatic organisms. This is the first study that provides a basic assessment of the pollution caused by plastic debris in the Great Lakes waters. The results presented are from 4 of 22 samples collected from July 12 to July 29, 2012 on the Great Lakes as well as 13 samples collected on the South Atlantic Ocean. The plastic debris collected was classified by color, size, and chemical composition of the synthetic polymer.
Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
504-670-4707 (New Orleans Press Center, April 5-10)
202-872-6042
Michael Woods
m_woods@acs.org
504-670-4707 (New Orleans Press Center, April 5-10)
202-872-6293

Michael Bernstein | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.acs.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>