Eight Freshwater Streams in South Australia Found To Contain Microplastics for the First Time

Eight Freshwater Streams in South Australia Found To Contain Microplastics for the First Time

Flinders University has, for the first time, detected microplastics flowing through eight freshwater streams running into the Gulf of St Vincent in South Australia, raising alarm bells on microplastics in Australian water.

The Gulf of St Vincent is the eastern inlet in South Australia. It flows into the ocean, and is home to the a variety of fish, crabs and squids. It’s also under a lot of pressure, with coastal development, marine pollution and storm-water runoff impacting the environment.

Adding to the problem, for the first time that we’ve observed, is the presence of microplastics in eight streams that lead to the Gulf of St Vincent.

Of the microplastics Flinders University detected, 72 per cent comprised of textile fibres, 17 per cent contained fragments, and eight per cent comprised of cosmetic beads.

Samples were taken from the following locations:

  • Onkaparinga River
  • Pedler Creek
  • Christie Creek
  • Field River
  • Sturt River
  • Brownhill Creek
  • Torrens River
  • Magazine Wetland

The abundance of particles was measured at between 6.4 and 5.5 particles per litre, ranging from 1.2 to 30 particles at different locations.

“Decades of poor waste management has underpinned mass plastic pollution around the world, and this study confirms the presence of microplastics in all the studied freshwater streams in Adelaide,” Flinders University’s Professor Sophie Leterme said.

“With up to 80% of all marine plastic pollution coming from land-based sources, our study raises concerns about the ongoing effects of increased microplastics in coastal waters.”

Researchers also detected a higher abundance of microplastics in downstream sampling from waste management facilities within 1km of the Pedler, Onkaparinga, Christie, Brownhill and Magazine waterways. These locations included much greater quantities of microplastics, in the size range of 20 μm–5 mm.

“This study provides a baseline understanding of the microplastic load entering the Gulf St Vincent, and hopefully this will be a beneficial step in the process to understand the impacts microplastics are having in the marine waters of our state,” study co-author Elise Tuuri said.

Microplastics can be massively harmful to marine life, choking them and entering their bodies as they swim about, effecting their physiological abilities.

Because of our consumption of fish and marine life, the microplastics reenter our bloodstream, and the cycle continues, disturbing our physiological abilities and likely causing health problems for us. It’s expected that microplastics could cause humans oxidative stress, DNA damage and inflammation, among other problems, however, their true extent of them is still unknown. Last year, a link was found between microplastics and IBD symptoms.

It’s a scary reality knowing that microplastics are flowing through Australian water, and it’s one that makes the fight for the climate all the more necessary.

You can read about the study in Science of Total Environment.

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