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University of Basel

08 December 2015

Microplastics: Rhine One of the Most Polluted Rivers Worldwide

(Image: University of Basel, Thomas Mani)
(Image: University of Basel, Thomas Mani)

Between Basel and Rotterdam, the Rhine has one of the highest microplastics pollution so far measured in rivers, with the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area showing peak numbers of up to four times the average. Among investigated rivers, the Rhine is thus among those most heavily polluted with microplastics. This is reported by researchers from the University of Basel, who evaluated, for the first time, the plastic concentration at the surface of one of the big European rivers. Their results have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Tiny plastic particles smaller than five millimeters, so-called microplastics, are found in almost all waterbodies these days. They occur as intermediate products in plastic production or as pellets for cleansing and care products or result from fragmentation of plastic debris. They are released into the environment due to improper handling. In the oceans, they contribute to the ‘great garbage patches’ and are ingested by many organisms, from protozoa to baleen whales. Although as much as 80% of this marine plastic is emitted by rivers to the oceans, not a single great river has yet been scientifically studied for the microplastics load over its length.

Thematischer Schwerpunkt
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