Microplastics as an Exposure Source for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Marine Biota Specific to Lake Muskegon

Researchers at ISTC have teamed up with scientists at the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University (MI) to investigate the role of microplastics in the fate and transport of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are starting with two simple questions:

  1. To what extent do POPs sorb to microplastics?
  2. Does residence time impact the extent of the sorption concentrations of POPs on microplastics?

Water and sediment samples from Lake Muskegon (MI) will be tested for 69 target POPs in four chemical classes:

  • 16 chlorinated pesticides
  • 9 polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
  • 28 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Three common plastics in the environment – polyethylene (#2 & #4), polypropylene (#5), and polyester (synthetic clothing material) – will be deployed in secure apparatuses in the water column and sediment in Lake Muskegon to see if POPs sorb to those plastics. At three time intervals after deployment, microplastics in the apparatuses will be sampled to see if POPs concentrations on the microplastics vary over time.

In addition, ISTC is partnering with researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK through a U of I BRIDGE program grant for further identification of other contaminants that may be present on these microplastics.

Initial results from this project are expected in spring 2020. This project is funded by the Annis Water Resource Institute at Grand Valley State University (MI) and the Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund.

As a continuation of this project, the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant funded a project to investigate microplastics as a carrier of PFAS in the Great Lakes food webs. Read more about that project is in the PFAS section.

Potential pathways for the transport of microplastics and their biological interactions (from Wright et al. 2013)