April 17, 2019
Plastic pollution – specifically microplastics (MPs), which are <5mm sized plastic particles – is now ubiquitous in oceans and rivers. A combination of physical, chemical, and radiative (UV light) processes degrade large plastic materials into small fragments (MPs and even smaller nanoplastics) and leach chemical by-products. Once small, MPs become highly mobile, can adsorb other pollutants (such as DDT, PCBs, dioxins), and can be ingested by biota where MPs can have direct effects on an organism or bioaccumulate. MPs can be found in freshwater systems in concentrations just as high as in marine environments, although much less is known about their transport and fate given that less than 4% of MP studies during the past 15 years focused on freshwater systems.
We are forming a “Plastic Pollution in Freshwater Systems” working group and are looking to organize individuals interested in collaborating on physical, chemical, environmental, ecological, biological, human health, social science, economics, etc. aspects of plastic pollution. In May, we will meet informally to assess interest and capabilities, then decide on whether to offer a seminar class in Fall 2019 on plastic pollution, and begin developing a strategy to submit a proposal(s) within the next year.
For more information on plastic pollution in freshwater systems see:
Freshwater Microplastics: Emerging Environmental Contaminants?
Editors: Martin Wagner & Scott Lambert