Plastic Particles Could Threaten Great Lakes Wildlife

By KBJR News 1

Plastic Particles Could Threaten Great Lakes Wildlife

August 16, 2013 Updated Aug 16, 2013 at 8:17 PM CST

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com) - Plastic is part of our everyday lives, but when it gets into our water shed, it can pose a problem.

"The hypothesis is that plastic is everywhere, and I found plastic in the ocean and I say, maybe we have this same problem in the Great Lakes," said Lorena Rios-Mendoza, assistant professor of chemistry at UW-Superior.

Rios started her research in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in 2003 where she found significant amounts of plastic.
In 2010, she started her research on the Great Lakes.

"We took samples from Wisconsin point and Minnesota point, and all these points mean the samples that were taken and you can see the samples," said Rios.

One way plastic particles are getting into the water is from garbage left on the beaches.
Also, many of the particles are microscopic, which is causing waste water treatment plants to miss the plastics. The material could be affecting the wildlife.

"We are very close to the lake and we eat the fish from the lake. So it is very important to know what is going on with the fish and if the plastic is affecting the fish, and if the problem is just in the fish or when we eat the fish the problem transfers to us," said Rios.

More research is needed to find out how plastics could affect us. So far, there has been a theme in the type of plastic Rios and her students have been finding.

"We find the most common plastic polyethylene and polypropylene," said Chiyeon Evans, one of Rios' students.

Those kinds of plastics are most commonly found in water bottles and children's toys but at this point there are more questions than answers.

"We don't know the future that's why we are thinking it's very important to study plastic," said Evans.

A study that aims to provide insight to this complex material.

Rios along with students who have been helping her will take to the Great Lakes this Sunday to continue their research.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.
kanderson@kbjr.com