"Next to mechanical impairments of swallowed plastics mistaken as food, many plastic-associated chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, or acutely toxic," said study author Christian Laforsch of the University of Bayreuth in Germany in a press release. "Moreover, the polymers can adsorb toxic hydrophobic organic pollutants and transport these compounds to otherwise less polluted habitats. Along this line, plastic debris can act as vector for alien species and diseases."
In lab experiments, Laforsch and his team tested the potential for lake invertebrates to start the chain of passing plastic through the food web. They found that tiny freshwater animals, such as water fleas, will indeed devour the plastic.
NEWS: Lakes Are Loaded With Chemicals, Even Cocaine
Laforsch hadn't expected to find such a heavy load of plastic in the azure waters of subalpine Lake Garda.
"The mere existence of microplastic particles in a subalpine headwater suggests an even higher relevance of plastic particles in lowland waters," Laforsch said.
As an occasional fisherman and frequent pescavore, I wonder how much plastic makes its way into the lakes and ponds here in Missouri...and how much of that plastic ends up in me. When I eat fresh-caught, local fish, it seems clean and safe. Perhaps, I have actually been eating bits of plastic along with my bass.
IMAGE: A view of Lake Garda, Italy. (Thomas Cristofoletti/Getty Images)