An Investigation of Microplastics as a Carrier for Perfluorinated Compounds into Great Lakes Food Webs

The Great Lakes are an important water and food source for both humans and animals. Anthropogenic contaminants such as microplatics, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are of increasing concern because of their potential impact on the environment and human health. Scientists lack full understanding about how these recently identified contaminants interact with the environment, aquatic species, and other potential contaminants.

ISTC researchers are collaborating with scientists at the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University (MI) to address this knowledge gap in their project on persistent organic pollutants in Lake Muskegon. The project team will study three microplastic types that have been exposed to natural waters over varying time periods for 69 legacy pollutants.

Additional funding from the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will allow the team to leverage their existing research to test for new analytes. They tested for 12 common PFASs that are typically found in the environment. They found that biofilms that grow on microplastics enhance microplastics' ability to absorb chemical pollutants such as PFAS. Read more in their May 2021 Toxics journal publication.