Microplastics are polluting Lake Winnebago’s fish

A new study is raising concerns about the safety of eating fish from Lake Winnebago.

The research reveals tiny pieces of plastic are skirting the wastewater treatment process to end up in the lake, where they can soak up toxins and are likely being consumed by fish.

Experts say there’s a potential danger that those toxins could be passed on to people who consume fish from the lake.

“It’s definitely a concern,” said Kelly Reyer, outreach coordinator for the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance. “It can go through the food chain and potentially harm the ecosystem as well as public health because of people consuming the fish.”

Plastic microbeads had previously been found in the Great Lakes, prompting state legislation to phase out products that contain them, but experts didn’t know whether they were in Lake Winnebago or other inland waters. (…) (usatoday.com, 10/07/2017)

The news

Microplastics in the sediments of a UK urban lake

While studies on microplastics in the marine environment show their wide-distribution, persistence and contamination of biota, the freshwater environment remains comparatively neglected. Where studies on freshwaters have been undertaken these have been on riverine systems or very large lakes. We present data on the distribution of microplastic particles in the sediments of Edgbaston Pool, a shallow eutrophic lake in central Birmingham, UK. These data provide, to our knowledge, the first assessment of microplastic concentrations in the sediments of either a small or an urban lake and the first for any lake in the UK. Maximum concentrations reached 25–30 particles per 100 g dried sediment (equivalent to low hundreds kg−1) and hence are comparable with reported river sediment studies. Fibres and films were the most common types of microplastic observed. Spatial distributions appear to be due to similar factors to other lake studies (i.e. location of inflow; prevailing wind directions; propensity for biofouling; distribution of macroplastic debris) and add to the growing burden of evidence for microplastic ubiquity in all environments.

Rebecca Vaughan, Simon D. Turner, Neil L. Rose, Environmental Pollution, Volume 229, October 2017, Pages 10–18

The article

Freshwater’s macro microplastic problem

Like in the oceans, the bulk of the pollution in rivers and lakes is not in the form of plastic bottles and other large pieces, but tiny pieces called microplastics that would be hard to spot. “Three quarters of what we take out of the Great Lakes are less than a millimeter in size,” she says. “It’s basically the size of a period of a sentence.” These plastics are concerning to scientists because they are being ingested by a variety of aquatic organisms. (…) (pbs.org, 11/05/2017)

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Microplastic contamination in Lake Winnipeg, Canada

Microplastics are an emerging contaminant of concern in aquatic ecosystems. To better understand microplastic contamination in North American surface waters, we report for the first time densities of microplastics in Lake Winnipeg, the 11th largest freshwater body in the world. Samples taken 2014 to 2016 revealed similar or significantly greater microplastic densities in Lake Winnipeg compared with those reported in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Plastics in the lake were largely of secondary origin, overwhelmingly identified as fibres. We detected significantly greater densities of microplastics in the north basin compared to the south basin of the lake in 2014, but not in 2015 or 2016. Mean lake-wide densities across all years were comparable and not statistically different. Scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy indicated that 23% of isolated particles on average were not plastic. While the ecological impact of microplastics on aquatic ecosystems is still largely unknown, our study contributes to the growing evidence that microplastic contamination is widespread even around sparsely-populated freshwater ecosystems, and provides a baseline for future study and risk assessments.

Philip J. Anderson, Sarah Warrack, Victoria Langen and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 225, June 2017, Pages 223–231

The article

Microplastic pollution in Vembanad Lake, Kerala, India: The first report of microplastics in lake and estuarine sediments in India

We present the first study of microplastics in the sediments of Vembanad Lake, a Ramsar site in India. Microplastics are emerging pollutants of increasing environmental concern with a particle size of <5 mm, which originate from successive degradation of larger plastic debris or are manufactured as small granules and used in many applications. The impact of microplastics pollution on the environment and biota is not well known. Vast data exist in the literature on marine microplastics while reports on freshwater ecosystems are scarce. In this context, to examine the occurrence of microplastic particles (MPs) in the Vembanad Lake, samples were collected from ten sites and processed for microplastic extraction through density separation. Identification of the polymer components of MPs was done using micro Raman spectroscopy. MPs were recovered from all sediment samples, indicating their extensive distribution in the lake. The abundance of MPs recorded from the sediment samples is in the range of 96–496 particles m−2 with a mean abundance of 252.80 ± 25.76 particles m−2. Low density polyethylene has been identified as the dominant type of polymer component of the MPs. As clams and fishes are the major source of protein to the local population, the presence of MPs in the lake becomes critically important, posing a severe threat of contaminating the food web of this lake. This study, being the first report from India on MPs in lake sediments, provide impetus for further research on the distribution and impact of this emerging pollutant on the biota of many aquatic systems spread across India.

S. Sruthy, E.V. Ramasamy, Environmental Pollution, Volume 222, March 2017, Pages 315–322


Presence of plastic particles in waterbirds faeces collected in Spanish lakes

Plastic intake by marine vertebrates has been widely reported, but information about its presence in continental waterfowl is scarce. Here we analyzed faeces of waterbirds species (European coot, Fulica atra, mallard, Anas platyrhynchos and shelduck, Tadorna tadorna) for plastic debris in five wetlands in Central Spain. We collected 89 faeces of shelduck distributed in four lakes, 43.8% of them presented plastic remnants. Sixty percent of 10 faeces of European coot and 45% of 40 faeces of mallard contained plastic debris. Plastic debris found was of two types, threads and fragments, and were identified as remnants of plastic objects used in agricultural fields surrounding the lakes. Differences in prevalence of plastic in faeces, number of plastic pieces per excrement and size of the plastic pieces were not statistically significant between waterfowl species. Thus, our results suggest that plastic may also be frequently ingested by waterfowl in continental waters, at least in our study area. Future studies should address this potential problem for waterbird conservation in other wetlands to evaluate the real impact of this pollutant on waterbirds living in inland water.

J.A. Gil-Delgado, D. Guijarro, R.U. Gosálvez, G.M. López-Iborra, A. Ponz, A. Velasco, Environmental Pollution, Volume 220, Part A, January 2017, Pages 732–736

The article

Application of a comprehensive extraction technique for the determination of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in Great Lakes Region sediments

A comprehensive method to extract perfluoroalkane sulfonic acids (PFSAs), perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs), polyfluoroalkyl phosphoric acid diesters (diPAPs), perfluoroalkyl phosphinic acids (PFPiAs) and perfluoroalkyl phosphonic acids (PFPAs) from sediment and analysis by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was developed and applied to sediment cores from three small isolated lakes (Plastic Lake, Lake 442, Lake Tettegouche) and Lake Ontario in the Great Lakes Region. Recoveries of the target compounds using the optimized acetonitrile/sodium hydroxide extraction ranged from 73% to 120%. The greatest concentrations of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) were recorded in sediment from Lake Ontario (ΣPFASs 13.1 ng/g), where perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) contributed over 80% of the total. Concentrations in Lake Ontario were approximately 1–2 orders of magnitude greater than the more remote lakes subject to primarily atmospheric inputs. Whilst the PFAS contribution in Lake Ontario was dominated by PFOS, the more remote lakes contained sediment with higher proportions of PFCAs. Trace amounts of emerging PFASs (diPAPs and PFPiAs) were found in very recent surface Lake Ontario and remote lake sediments.

Rui Guo, David Megson, Anne L. Myers, Paul A. Helm, Chris Marvin, Patrick Crozier, Scott Mabury, Satyendra P. Bhavsar, Gregg Tomy, Matt Simcik, Brian McCarry, Eric J. Reine, Chemosphere, Volume 164, December 2016, Pages 535–546

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