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, John Scott and Nancy Holm, 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 will test for 12 common PFASs that are typically found in the environment. The team hopes to answer the following questions:

  • To what extent do PFASs found in the environment concentrate on environmental microplastics?
  • How does micoplastic type (polyethylene, propylene, and polyester) affect PFASs adsorption?
  • Do PFAS concentrations vary depending on the time that micoplastics reside in the environment?
  • Are PFASs concentrations associated with microplastics at a level of concern when introduced to food webs?

Results from this project are expected in 2020.