Microplastics in Lake Tahoe Leads to New Research

Team will present findings in December
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 1, 2019 11:10 AM CDT
Researchers Find Microplastics in Lake Tahoe, Sparking Study
Freya Mayo, left, and her sister Evie, of London, paddle board in Lake Tahoe last month.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Scientists at Lake Tahoe have detected microplastics at several locations around the lake for this first time. Microplastics is the term for tiny pieces of plastic that come from everything from water bottles to synthetic fleece sweaters. Experts said they are ubiquitous around the world, the AP reports, so it's not surprising to find them in Lake Tahoe. A team of researchers from the Desert Research Institute is digging deeper into the issue to learn more about potential health and environmental ramifications for Nevada. In addition to lakes and streams in the Tahoe Basin, they're also studying the Las Vegas wash in Southern Nevada, which drains into Lake Mead. They're scheduled to present their findings to the American Geophysical Union in December.

"On one level, we’re heartbroken and disappointed by this discovery,” Monica Arienzo, who's leading the investigation, told the Los Angeles Times. "We really hoped we wouldn't find much of this material in Tahoe’s water, which is almost entirely snowmelt." But the research team is looking forward to finding answers, Arienzo said. Because the particles are carried great distances through by wind, rain and falling snow, they could have come from almost anywhere around the world—or from the Tahoe area. (A UN report said microplastics in drinking water doesn't seem to be a concern at the moment.)

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