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Spatial distribution of microplastics in surficial benthic sediment of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie

December 7, 2020

The spatial distribution, concentration, particle size, and polymer compositions of microplastics in Lake Michigan and Lake Erie sediment were investigated. Fibers/lines were the most abundant of the five particle types characterized. Microplastic particles were observed in all samples with mean concentrations for particles greater than 0.355 mm of 65.2 p kg–1 in Lake Michigan samples (n = 20) and 431 p kg–1 in Lake Erie samples (n = 12). Additional analysis of particles with size 0.1250–0.3549 mm in Lake Erie resulted in a mean concentration of 631 p kg–1. The majority of polymers in Lake Michigan samples were poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and semisynthetic cellulose (S.S. Cellulose), and in Lake Erie samples were S.S. Cellulose, polypropylene (PP), and poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC). Polymer density estimates indicated that 85 and 74% of observed microplastic particles have a density greater than 1.1 g cm–3 for Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, respectively. The current study provided a multidimensional dataset on the spatial distribution of microplastics in benthic sediment from Lake Michigan and Lake Erie and valuable information for assessment of the fate of microplastics in the Great Lakes.