microplastics | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

microplastics

person holding microplastic pieces found on a beach
Rowan / Adobe Stock

A new contaminant is threatening Lake Superior. Microplastics — tiny plastic fragments under five millimeters — have been discovered in the western basin of the lake.

Researchers are studying their impact on Lake Superior, but their size makes them difficult to see and study. Elizabeth Minor is a professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Large Lakes Observatory. She says larger pieces of plastic are broken down in the water.

flight of beers
Flickr/ Quinn Dombrowski

 

Today, there's no federal or state restriction on the level of PFAS contamination considered a public health threat. What there is, is an advisory. We speak to a former EPA official who helped create it. Plus, what can we learn about our own freshwater seas from researchers studying the African Great Lakes?

flight of beers
Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

We Michiganders love our craft beer. In recent years, small breweries have been popping up everywhere, from big cities to small towns.

But it turns out when you’re drinking that pint of local Great Lakes beer, a delicious malt beverage isn’t all you’re getting. A new study finds there’s a good chance you’re ingesting microplastic fibers.

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

Microplastic pollution appears to affect creatures at the bottom of the food web the most. That’s one of the main takeaways from an analysis of 43 studies looking at the effects of microplastics on aquatic life.

Microplastics are tiny beads that get into waterways from our consumer products or tiny fibers that wash out of our clothing.

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises the United States and Canada, says the two countries should do more to keep microplastics out of the lakes.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are five millimeters or smaller. Microbeads are used in things like soap and toothpaste. Microfibers are tiny fibers that wash off our synthetic clothing, like fleece.

Those tiny plastics can end up in the Great Lakes and can get into fish.

Microplastics widespread in Great Lakes tributaries

Sep 15, 2016
A Healthier Michigan / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Tiny particles of plastic are prevalent in rivers that flow into the Great Lakes, according to a new study by scientists with  the U.S. Geological Survey  and the State University of New York at Fredonia.

The study found  microplastics in every sample taken from 29 Great Lakes tributaries in six states. These tributaries account for more than 20% of the total river water running into the Great Lakes.