GREEN BAY, Wis. — A new study is raising concerns about the safety of eating fish from a lake in eastern Wisconsin.
Research conducted by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Superior found that small pieces of plastic have skirted the wastewater treatment process and ended up in Lake Winnebago, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported. The plastic can soak up toxins and are likely being consumed by fish.
Lead researcher Lorena Rios Mendoza said she advises against eating fish from the area, though more research needs to be conducted to determine if it’s truly dangerous.
“It’s definitely a concern,” said Kelly Reyer, outreach coordinator for the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance. “It can go through the food chain and potentially harm the ecosystem as well as public health because of people consuming the fish.”
Plastics found in the lake include microbeads that are used as exfoliants in scrubs, plastic litter and clothing that can shed into plastic microfibers. Rios Mendoza estimates that about 400 microbeads flow into the lake every day from the Fond du Lac Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The lake is the state’s largest inland lake and a source of drinking water for multiple cities. But the filtration process for drinking water is more vigorous and is able to catch particles smaller than microbeads, said Jennifer Sereno, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources.
The plastics aren’t biodegradable and may stay in the lake forever if no action is taken, Rios Mendoza said. Further research, more public education and reduction of plastic waste by manufacturers and consumers are the next steps that should be taken to address the problem, she said.