GBF Newsletter Winter 2018

GBF.ORG | WINTER 2018 | 7 — are distinct and tell a story of the people that inhabit the Great Lakes Basin. MICROFIBERS IN THE GREAT LAKES BASIN Microfibers are some of the most common microplastics in the Great Lakes. Derived from synthetic textiles, e.g., polyester, acrylic, poly- propylene, polyamide and polyethylene, mi- crofibers may enter the environment in many ways. One known pathway is shedding from clothing, with studies on synthetic textiles showing that some articles can shed 100,000 microfibers in a single wash. While wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) may capture up to 90% of microfibers entering these facilities, a recent study in the United States showed that a single WWTP can discharge up to five million microplastic particles per day, even when serv- ing catchment areas of around 100,000 people. And with approximately 34 million people living in the Great Lakes Basin, the total load of microfibers entering natural water- ways is substantial. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS? Given their ubiquity and small dimensions, the ingestion and impacts of microplastics are cause for concern. Over 220 species have been recorded as ingesting microplastics and include species ranging frommicroscopic, e.g., zooplankton, to megafauna, e.g., humpback whales. Microplastics also accumulate in food chains and reach humans through seafood consumption, e.g., mussels, fish and oysters. Effects of microplastics are far-reaching. Researchers have investigated the impacts of microplastics on gene expression, individual cells, survival and reproduction. Mounting evidence shows that negative impacts can include decreased feeding and growth, endo- crine disruption, decreased fertility, as well as other lethal and sub-lethal effects. While some effects are due to ingestion stress, e.g., physi- cal blockage, many risks to ecosystems are associated with the chemicals in plastic, either added to plastic as ingredients in production or absorbed from “chemical cocktails” in the surrounding environment. Studies have shown that chemicals transfer to fish when they consume microplastics. When these fish end up on our dinner plates, we have the potential to increase the burden of hazardous chemicals in our bodies. However, it is unclear how microfibers may uniquely contribute to these contaminant burdens, since microfibers are often associated with distinct mixtures of chemicals used to manu- facture fibers and clothing. RESEARCH IN LAKE HURON AND GEORGIAN BAY In my PhD research, I am leading a project funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), in collaboration with Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) to better understand contamination and effects of microfibers and associated chemicals in freshwater habitats. Thus far, I have sampled fish across Lake Ontario and Lake Huron, including Georgian Bay, and will quantify microplastic ingestion and determine if microplastics are a source of emerging con- taminants to these fish in a freshwater food chain. Currently there is little known about microplastics in Georgian Bay or impacts to wildlife in the Great Lakes, and my research will fill some of these gaps. Contaminants such as flame retardants are increasingly found in the Great Lakes and are of growing concern in Canada. Some of these contaminants are commonly added to synthetic fibers and textiles during manufac- turing. My PhD research specifically aims to investigate the contamination and impacts of microfibers and any associated chemical contamination of fish.The preliminary results of my research are expected in the spring, and the research is anticipated to be published in the summer or fall. LOCAL SOLUTIONS ARE IMPORTANT In our lab at the University of Toronto, we are testing existing and emerging solutions to reduce microfiber pollution. Initial results show that microfibers released in effluent can be reduced by 26-86% by implementing these innovations. Products currently available to capture microfibers in the wash reduce the number of microplastics that reach WWTPs and include:  • Cora Ball, produced by Rozalia Project *  • Lint-LUVR filter, developed by Environmen- tal Enhancements http://www.environ - * Legislation to ban microbeads in Canada will come into effect in July 2018. While this is an important move to reduce microplastics emis- sions, this ban only removes microplastics from personal care products, e.g., microbeads in toothpaste, face wash, etc. The greater chal- lenge will be to work towards solutions that reduce microfibers, the far more prevalent microplastic in the Great Lakes. Lisa is a PhD student in the Rochman Lab at the University of Toronto and researches the effects of microplastics on fish. In her work, Lisa aims to better understand how microfibers – one of the most common types of microplastics – impact fish through physical and chemical processes. For more information on Lisa and the microplastics research group, visit IMPORTANT INFO Sampling fish with Environment Canada and Climate Change in 2017 Various microplastics extracted from Great Lakes sedi- ment, a major sink of microplastics. Lisa Erdle * Georgian Bay Forever is not associated with the companies that produce these products and does not endorse or materially benefit from their sale.