Welcome to the Microplastics Fingerprinting project

Plastics pollution is a global and growing environmental hazard with potentially far-reaching consequences for food webs, biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. Of particular concern are microplastics because their small sizes enhance their mobility, toxicity to wildlife, and capacity to leach potentially dangerous contaminants.

The Microplastics Fingerprinting at the watershed scale: from sources to receivers project seeks to better understand the sources, transport, fate and exposure risks of microplastics at a watershed scale in the lower Great Lakes. In doing so, we hope to inform program and policy approaches that can mitigate risks posed by plastic debris in the environment.    

The project will analyze the reactivity and breakdown of microplastics in river systems and reservoirs, quantify the loads of microplastics delivered to the lower Great Lakes, optimize microplastics elimination in wastewater treatment plants, and determine the abundance and diversity of microplastics in drinking water sources.

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Jacob de Boer knows how dangerous new chemicals can be for human health. As one of the world’s leading authorities on environmental chemistry, he’s spent over 47 years promoting responsible chemicals management in Europe and beyond. Jacob draws on these experiences to reflect on the progress and the challenges associated with researching one type of contaminant that is getting a lot of recent public attention: analyzing environmental microplastic pollution. 

The Microplastics Fingerprinting project hosted its first in person, annual meeting in Waterloo on September 16, 2022.  Over 40 researchers, students, and collaborating partners gathered to discuss ways to better support research integration, hear about the needs and perspectives of water practitioners, and to collectively fine-tune our communication and knowledge mobilization tactics.