The mention of pollution in our lakes, rivers, and oceans often evokes images of sea turtles trapped in the plastic rings that bind aluminum cans together. But while traveling "garbage patches" affect our ocean's, fish, and wildlife, the Great Lakes are experiencing dangerous levels of pollution from the smallest of particles.
According to a 2016 study from the Rochester Institute of Technology, approximately 22 million pounds of plastic flows into the Great Lakes each year with the highest concentrations reported in Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. Much of this pollution is comprised of microplastics, small particles that are added to toothpaste, body wash, and other personal care items - and, at one time, Lake Erie had more microplastic pollution than any other body of water on Earth.
While microbeads aren't toxic, they can absorb toxins, and are often too small to be captured by wastewater treatment systems. To combat this growing problem, the Microbeads-Free Waters Act of 2015 was passed, preventing companies from using microbeads in their products. However, the problem persists - and is now exacerbated by microfibers, tiny fibers of acrylic, nylon, spandex, and polyester, that are now evident in the Great Lakes.
Given personal care products' disposable nature and the ubiquitousness of plastic and other synthetic materials in our daily lives, how can we solve a problem that is so tethered to our lifestyle?
Join us for the 2018 State of the Great Lakes forum on how to address micro pollution.