Microplastics found in 53 Pa. waterways, including the Lehigh River

Written by on March 4, 2021

Microplastics found in 53 Pa. waterways, including the Lehigh River

By Megan Frank

March 4, 2021

The Lehigh River in South Bethlehem with the SteelStacks in the background. Photo| Wikimedia Commons

Microplastic contaminants have been found in 53 waterways in Pennsylvania, including in the Lehigh River, according to clean water advocacy group PennEnvironment

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The pollutants come from things like clothing and makeup. While they’re smaller than a grain of rice they could have a big impact on the environment. 

These tiny pollutants are shed from packaging materials, clothing made from synthetic fiber and microbeads from cosmetics.

Microplastics were found in samples taken from waterways like Saucon Creek and  Little Lehigh creeks and the Lehigh and Delaware rivers.

Scientists say microplastics can be inhaled through the air. They can also be consumed by aquatic life and move up the food chain from wildlife to humans. 

U.S. Rep Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Philadelphia), says she was not surprised by the findings.

“As more and more single [use] plastics are getting poured into our landfills, they’re also getting burned in incinerators. So this is a problem that is having multiple environmental impacts,” Scanlon says. 

State Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery), says he supports legislation that would curb the use of single-use plastics.

“Microplastics are affecting every corner of the state and every waterway. The policies have to change. We need to deal with the litter and also stop it at the source,” Briggs says.

Briggs supports a package of bills that would ban restaurants from using plastic straws foam takeout food containers. It would also put a fee on single-use plastic bags.

PennEnvironment is pushing for legislation to curb the use of plastics for items like single-use water bottles and plastic bags.

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