Lake Erie's Garbage Patch May Be Worst of All
Scientists find concentrations of plastic denser than those in ocean
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2013 9:19 AM CDT
A tug boat guides a ship on Lake Erie.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Huge swaths of plastic floating in the ocean get all the attention as emblems of nasty pollution, but rival patches closer to home in Lake Erie are in some ways worse, reports the Atlantic Cities blog. A new study finds that the lake has dense patches of tiny bits of plastic—which just happen to be great sponges for hazardous chemicals. They also look very tasty to birds and fish. The lead University of Wisconsin scientist found concentrations up to 1.7 million particles per square mile, 24% greater than what they turned up in the Atlantic Ocean, writes John Metcalfe. (All the Great Lakes are affected, but Erie is the worst.)

What's more, the lake's plastic has higher concentrations of toxins known as "persistent organic pollutants" than the oceanic plastic, writes Hannah Franklin at Cleveland's Scene magazine. The waste comes from standard plastic litter that breaks down into pieces smaller than a grain of sand (sometimes called "mermaid tears") and from industrial manufacturing (these pellets are called "nurdles" for some reason). Depressing stuff, but Sarah Laskow at Grist manages to find a silver lining, or at least a sliver of one: "Great Lakes pollution is a little bit easier for people to see and maybe decide to clean up, since they don’t want to emerge from a refreshing swim covered in microparticles of trash."

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Showing 3 of 31 comments
mik007
Apr 14, 2013 2:27 PM CDT
Its not over until its over,MAN IS THE PROBLEM>
kati
Apr 14, 2013 9:00 AM CDT
Please help put a stop to this by refusing plastic shopping bags, don't buy balloons, refuse all the plastic and styrofoam that you can. Help pass at least a no-plastic bag resolution in your town, encourage businesses to reward shoppers that shop with canvas or other reuseable bags. Instead of Baggies, reuse the plastics from products like pre-packaged lettuce, spinach, and a whole lot more. These are small changes (save money, too) If some of us can do this, then you can too.
Tology
Apr 14, 2013 7:48 AM CDT
Swimming is the least of our worries, we get our drinking water from the lake too.