Microplastics found on northwestern Iowa beaches

Photo from Oregon State University, flickr

Tyler Chalfant | February 28th, 2020

A group of researchers and students in Storm Lake, Iowa found fragments of plastic on a beach in the northwestern part of the state. Iowa Public Radio recently interviewed Ben Maas, a professor at Buena Vista University, about the issue. 

Microplastics, which are less than five millimeters in size, are broken off from plastic water bottles, synthetic fabrics, and a wide variety of plastic products as they break down. These tiny particles can then end up in lakes, rivers, and oceans, where they pose a threat to aquatic life. They have been found to make their way into drinking water, food, and the air as well.

There’s a lot that’s still unknown about the risks microplastics pose to human health and the environment, in part because they are so small that they are difficult to measure. The Storm Lake samples were collected in fall of 2018, but Maas said they hope to continue researching microplastics in the area to determine how widespread the problem is. So far, he and his students have found fleece threads, tiny chunks of car tires, and parking lot paint chips.

Mel Graf is one BVU student who’s been working to break down the samples. She commented that their findings bring home a larger environmental issue.  “We’re walking on pollution.” she said. “Hopefully that’s something we can start to figure out ways to go about fixing.”

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