Lake Erie Polluted By At Least 100 Million Pieces Of Plastic

Plastic products likes bags and straws eventually break down into smaller pieces and often end up in Lake Erie. [Loretta Sze / shutterstock]
Plastic products likes bags and straws eventually break down into smaller pieces and often end up in Lake Erie. [Loretta Sze / shutterstock]
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There are more than 100 million pieces of plastic in Lake Erie.

That is according Prof. Sherri Mason from the State University of New York at Fredonia who presented the State of the Great Lakes Tuesday at The City Club of Cleveland.

Mason began her research in 2012 and found about 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer in Lake Erie alone.

She said there's an even larger amount in the sediment at the bottom of the lake and in the rivers that feed it.

“We went from looking in the Great Lakes to looking in the rivers, going upstream from the lakes, and there we see that the counts go up even higher, because you’re closer to the people, and ultimately people, we are the source of this material,” said Mason.

Most of what they found are microplastics, pieces the size of a sesame seed or smaller, that come from broken down products like straws and bags.

Mason said the key to ending the pollution is for people to change their behavior.

“By refusing the straws, the bags, the bottles, we can be the change we wish to see in the world," said Mason.

Mason said other types of pollutants found in Lake Erie attach themselves to microplastics. Then animals eat them, and those pollutants all make their way up the food chain to humans.

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