Hidden plastics of Lake Ontario, Canada and their potential preservation in the sediment record

Microplastics are a source of environmental pollution resulting from degradation of plastic products and spillage of resin pellets. We report the amounts of microplastics from various sites of Lake Ontario and evaluate their potential for preservation in the sediment record. A total of 4635 pellets were sampled from the Humber Bay shoreline on three sampling dates. Pellet colours were similar to those from the Humber River bank, suggesting that the river is a pathway for plastics transport into Lake Ontario. Once in the lake, high density microplastics, including mineral-polyethylene and mineral-polypropylene mixtures, sink to the bottom. The minerals may be fillers that were combined with plastics during production, or may have adsorbed to the surfaces of the polymers in the water column or on the lake bottom. Based on sediment depths and accumulation rates, microplastics have accumulated in the offshore region for less than 38 years. Their burial increases the chance of microplastics preservation. Shoreline pellets may not be preserved because they are mingled with organic debris that is reworked during storm events.

Patricia L. Corcoran and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 204, Pages 17–25, September 2015

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