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Seeking an expert on Great Lakes water quality research, Columbus Dispatch newspaper reporter Spencer Hunt interviewed UW-Superior assistant professor in Chemistry Dr. Lorena Rios-Mendoza.
The story was published in the July 17 newspaper in the Columbus Dispatch. This is ongoing research. Here are her comments in the story:
Columbus officials, like those in most other cities, don't know how much microplastic passes through their treatment systems to the Scioto River. Most of the research has focused on "garbage patches," vast fields of plastic castoffs floating in the world's oceans.
In August 2012, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based environmental-advocacy group - 5 Gyres - funded a search in Lake Erie that found plenty of microplastics. Two samples contained so many that the group estimated that there were 1.2 million per square mile.
Lorena Rios, a University of Wisconsin-Superior chemist who studied plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean, is studying the plastics5 Gyres collected from Lakes Erie, Huron and Superior. Rios said her tests show that plastics absorb pollutants from the water and the air, including pesticides, PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Both of the latter pollutants have been linked to cancer in people."The plastic is working like a sponge," Rios said.She said the next step is to study Great Lakes fish to see how much plastic they ingest and whether their bodies absorb any pollutants from the plastics. Ohio Division of Wildlife employees started collecting fish for Rios this month and plan to send her at least 150 samples of frozen fish stomachs and intestines, plus any they find that contain microplastics.Lab technicians at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' research station in Fairport Harbor have found plastics in fish before, said Ann Marie Gorman, a fisheries biologist.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also is gearing up to do a Great Lakes study and currently is identifying the best method to collect plastics from the water, said Sarah Opfer, the Great Lakes coordinator for the agency's Marine Debris Program.
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