Microplastics have been identified as a widespread, persistent environmental pollutant. The investigation of microplastics in marine ecosystems has been prevalent in the literature; however, much less consideration has been given to this form of pollution in freshwater ecosystems. Relatively few studies have considered the uptake of microplastics in freshwater mussels. This study investigated the presence of microplastics in fluted-shell mussels (Lasmigona costata) collected from various sites in the Grand River watershed, Southern Ontario’s largest watershed and home to one million people. The soft tissue of adult mussels underwent enzyme digestion, followed by filtration to isolate undigested particles. Particles were removed and analyzed using Raman spectroscopy to determine their composition. Ten different polymers were identified in the sampled mussels, with polypropylene-co-polyethylene being the most prevalent. Microplastic particles were detected in 71% of mussels with the greatest number of particles observed in a single mussel being seven. No significant difference in microplastic particles per mussel was observed among the different sites sampled. A significant positive relationship between particles per mussel and size of upstream catchment was observed, but a relationship between particles per mussel and percentage of urban land use was not observed.
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The authors would like to thank all individuals who participated in this project. Dr. Grzegorz Szymanski from the Department of Chemistry, University of Guelph for his valued training and assistance with Raman spectroscopy, Dr. Patricia Gillis (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Centre for Inland Waters) and colleagues, Jim Bennett and Joseph Salerno, for assistance in collecting of mussels in the Grand River, Nicole Wardell for the assistance in reviewing samples, and Dylan Bowes for the assistance in engineering filtering equipment.
Funding for this project was provided by a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council. Discovery Grant to R.S. Prosser.
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Capsule: Microplastics observed in the tissues of freshwater mussels (Lasmigona costata) in the Grand River watershed. A greater number of microplastics observed in mussels downstream of wastewater treatment facilities.
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Wardlaw, C., Prosser, R.S. Investigation of Microplastics in Freshwater Mussels (Lasmigona costata) From the Grand River Watershed in Ontario, Canada. Water Air Soil Pollut 231, 405 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-020-04741-5