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Microplastic pollution lingers in rivers for years before entering oceans

The accumulation of microplastics has been recognized as a danger to ocean life for years, but a new study in Science Advances from a team lead by  Aaron Packman and Jennifer Gerrard (University of Birmingham) proves they are a threat to river ecosystems as well. Long expected to float to the surface and wash away relatively quickly, microplastics can instead sink into the riverbed through the hyporheic exchange process, slowing their progress dramatically. In the worst cases, microplastics can take up to seven years to move a single kilometer through a river system, dramatically increasing the risk of exposure to fish and other wildlife. The project represents an ongoing collaboration between Packman and Gerrard, who earned her Ph.D. from Northwestern under Packman’s direction. 

Learn more about the study’s findings here.

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