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Microplastics Pollute Welsh Rivers

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Research led by Dr Christian Dunn from the Bangor University Wetlands group has found microplastic pollution in both the Afon Cegin and the Llyn Cefni Reservoir.

Microplastics are defined as fragments or fibres of plastic that are less than 5mm. The most prominent source of the pollutant are car tyres; clothing; plastic pellets (use to make general plastic goods); paints and road markings. Previous investigations have shown the detrimental impact that ingestion of microplastics may have on aquatic life and their persistent qualities that enable bioaccumulation throughout trophic levels. Scientific investigations are still ongoing as to the consequences of these plastics while the the severity of their impact on human health is yet to be confirmed.

Plastic pollution has gained ever increasing media attention but only recently has research been conducted in fluvial systems so close to home. Microplastic pollution in both the Afon Cegin and the Llyn Cefni Reservoir. The collaboration between Friends of the Earth and Dr. Christian Dunning has discovered 76.9 pieces of plastic per litre of water in the Afon Cegin and 43.2 in the LLyn Cefni. For a comparison, the River Tame in greater Manchester exhibited over 1000 pieces per litre. It is not just the quantity of plastic pollution which was the problem, but the fact that is was found in some of the most remote and iconic places in Wales: a troubling prospect for out scientists – and should also be for the wider community.

A plethora of university students were involved in the research including Luke Frears, 22 (Research Masters in Biological Sciences) and Jedd Godfrey (Research Masters in Wetland Science). Dan Aberg, 22 (MRes) and Oliver Armstrong (PhD) were also involved in the investigation. Dunnings hailed the students as being instrumental in designing and carrying out the work, showing them to have an enormous contribution to this cutting edge research.

Studies have shown microplastic pollution to be widespread, from the pristine Pyrenees mountains to the deepest oceans and now, throughout the freshwater systems of the UK. Bangor University  is at the forefront.

 

 

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Anna Ray

Environment Editor 2018-19

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