Plastic Waste Puts Great Lakes in Danger

Recently, scientists have been focusing research efforts on pollution levels in the Great Lakes due to plastic waste. The source of a great deal of this contamination is considered to be microplastics. Microplastics are small plastic particles which cause physical and chemical pollution in waterways.

It is believed that there are two main sources for the microplastics that have been showing up in the Great Lakes. One source is considered to be direct contamination through the sewage system. The other source is the result of larger plastic items breaking down in the environment.

Microplastics that arrive in the Great lakes through the sewage system are thought to come from a number of consumer products. Every time you do a load of laundry, synthetic fibers from clothing enter the sewer system. Cosmetic items, primarily exfoliants, contain small plastic particles that wash down your drain. Some cleaning supplies also contain small plastic particles that wind up in the Great Lakes as well.

It’s been known for a long time that larger plastic items such as bags, six pack rings, bottles and caps, are a hazard to marine life. These items are known to cause problems from entanglement, ingestion and suffocation for wildlife, but that isn’t the only threat that the larger plastic trash pieces pose. Once these plastics begin to breakdown into smaller pieces, they can cause even more problems for the Great Lakes’ ecosystem.

High concentrations of the man-made microplastics as well as those created through the breakdown of larger plastic items pose a serious threat to not only marine life, but humans as well. Microplastics are thought to absorb toxic chemicals and harbor harmful bacteria, increasing the damage done to the environment and to humans living nearby. Microplastics can carry chemical pollution as they travel through the food chain from marine life to humans.

Experts have called for the reduction of microplastic use in household items, including cosmetics and detergents, but estimate that it will take years to reverse damage done to the lakes. Take action in the fight against pollution. Forego plastic bags in favor of a recycled reusable bag from

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