In a recent USGS study, it was found that Great Lakes tributaries are rife with microplastics, small pieces of plastic that can be harmful to wildlife, the environment, and even humans.

Great Lakes Suffer from Widespread Plastic Pollution

In a recent USGS study, it was found that Great Lakes tributaries are rife with microplastics, small pieces of plastic that can be harmful to wildlife, the environment, and even humans.

As plastic bags and bottles decompose, microplastics fall from the material and can end up in the environment, becoming potentially hazardous to animals, water, and even humans. A recent USGS study took 107 water samples from 29 Great Lakes tributaries in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

From these samples, scientists discovered the highest concentration of microplastics was detected in the Huron River at Ann Arbor, Michigan, at 32 particles per cubic meter, or p/m3; high levels of microplastics were also detected in the Buffalo River at Buffalo, New York (31 p/m3), the Ashtabula River near Ashtabula, Ohio (23 p/m3), and the Clinton River near Mt. Clemens, Michigan (21 p/m3); the median concentration of microplastics in all samples was 1.9 p/m3; urban watersheds had the highest concentrations of microplastics; and microplastics were also present in streams in forested and agricultural areas.

“These microplastics, which are harmful to animal and possibly human health, will continue to accumulate in the Great Lakes well into the future,” said Austin Baldwin, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the report. “Our findings can help water managers better understand the types and sources of microplastics in rivers, and which rivers are the most polluted with microplastics.”

If ingested, microplastics can cause digestive and reproductive problems, and even death, in birds, fish, and other animals. Certain additives in plastic have also been known to cause some types of cancers and endocrine disruption. Unfortunately, scientists have found that microplastics are “nearly everywhere.”

Download Center

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Air Emissions for Regulators and the Real World

    When it comes to managing compliance and regulatory issues surrounding air emissions, there are no easy jobs. With interviews from practitioners from American Electric Power, Red Cedar Gathering, Trinity Consultants, and Cority, this eBook provides practical advice to advance your air emissions monitoring and reporting programs.

  • What Every EHS Professional Should Know About ESG

    Join experts from Arcadis and Cority on April 27th to learn the most common ESG reporting frameworks and how technology can help you improve reporting efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and create defensible audit trails.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Read the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get an unbiased comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • RFP Template for Waste Management Software

    Learn the essential questions to ask when evaluating waste management software solutions with this free, ready-to-use RFP template

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

Featured Webinar