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Microplastics are in Kansas lakes. Here's how they compare globally

A figure (a woman) stands on a boat on a lake, attaching a fine mesh net to a pole.
Ted Harris
Rebecca Kessler, one of the researchers from KU who participated in a global microplastics study, samples Clinton Lake near Lawrence, Kansas, for microplastics.

A new global study, published in Nature, found microplastics in every lake sampled — no matter how remote. A researcher from the University of Kansas talks about how local bodies of water stack up.

Clinton Lake in Kansas has fewer microplastics than most, according to a global study recently published in Nature.

A microplastic is any plastic particle that measures at five millimeters or less.

The study found that the more humans live, work and play near a body of water, the more microplastics contaminate it.

Some of the most popular and visited lakes, even those considered "pristine and clear" such as Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada, had rates of microplastics that rivaled ocean garbage patches.

Because there are fewer people living upstream of Clinton Lake, microplastic contamination isn't as extreme.

Ted Harris, a University of Kansas assistant professor and researcher at the Kansas Biological Survey, contributed to the study with undergraduate researcher Rebecca Kessler. Harris has been studying Clinton Lake for three years.

"Clinton Lake has a lot of pollution issues," Harris said. "And so it was sort of a unexpected surprise that we had relatively low [numbers]."

  • Ted Harris, assistant research professor at the Kansas Biological Survey and Center for Ecological Research at the University of Kansas
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