PRESS-NEWS.org - Press Release Distribution
PRESS RELEASES DISTRIBUTION

Microplastics are found in cave water and sediment, says SLU research

In spite of isolation, Missouri caves show human impact

2023-09-27
(Press-News.org) In two recent papers, Saint Louis University researchers report finding high concentrations of microplastics present in a Missouri cave system that had been closed to human visitors for 30 years.

Elizabeth Hasenmueller, Ph.D., associate professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and associate director of the WATER Institute at SLU, and her team published findings in the journals, Science of the Total Environment and Water Research, finding significant microplastic levels in Cliff Cave in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

The research, which originated from Hasenmueller’s research group and Karst Hydrology class, allowed students on the team to participate in field research and publish their findings.

Microplastics are characterized as plastic particles smaller than 5.0 millimeters and can be found across marine, terrestrial, and freshwater environments. Hasenmueller has previously studied microplastics in river systems, such as the Meramec River basin, but now wanted to look at the subsurface, an area that has not seen much research at all.

“A lot of research has been focused on surface water settings,” Hasenmueller said. “Microplastics research initially started in the ocean because of the highly visible problem of large plastic pollution in this environment. Recently, more research efforts have gone towards examining rivers, lakes, and other surface freshwater systems. However, one of the most understudied areas in this field relates to what’s happening to the subsurface in terms of microplastic contamination. These particles could be getting into groundwater, a common drinking water resource, or caves, where fragile ecosystems exist. During the last few years, my research team has been focused on trying to understand microplastic prevalence and transport in these subsurface environments.”

Hasenmueller and her team selected Cliff Cave for their studies as the cave has been closed to the public since 1993, allowing them to eliminate human presence in the cave as a possible cause of any observed microplastic contamination. Their research showed microplastics were found throughout the cave, but the highest concentrations were located near the entrance and in sediment.

“Part of the reason we picked Cliff Cave is because St. Louis County Parks regulates access to the cave,” Hasenmueller said. “We knew if we found microplastics in the cave, it’s not going to be because somebody has just hiked back into the cave and shed fibers from their clothing or left food wrappers.”

Through their research, Hasenmueller and her team discovered that flooding increases the amount of microplastics moving through the cave system. Microplastics move with water, and, when flooding occurs, the excess water brings more microplastics with it to the cave.

Flooding also contributed to a higher diversity of microplastics in the cave water. When those flood waters receded, microplastics were likely deposited near the cave’s mouth in higher abundances than in locations deeper in the cave.

“We weren’t sure what to expect with the dataset, but we found that the cave’s main entrance is where there’s a lot of microplastic debris, either from flood deposition or possibly from microplastic particles suspended in the air being deposited near the opening of the cave,” Hasenmueller said. “We know for sure that floodwaters are bringing microplastics into the cave because as we were traversing the cave passages and collecting samples, we found a plastic chip bag that was intertwined with leaves, acorns, and other flood debris from the surface.”

Not only did flood waters contribute to higher levels of microplastics, but Hasenmueller and her team also found that microplastics were almost 100 times more concentrated in sediment than in the water found in Cliff Cave. Microplastics were deposited into the cave’s sediment by the cave’s stream water and remained there even after the flood water receded.

“We were trying to figure out what fraction of the microplastics are actively moving through the cave stream right now versus what’s being stored long-term in the cave’s sediment,” Hasenmueller said. “One of the really interesting things we found is most of the microplastics were in the sediment. So, 99 percent of the microplastic debris we found in the cave was stored in the sediment; only a very small fraction of the plastic was in the water.”

“As the water levels go up during a flood, you see higher abundance and diversity of microplastic particles in the water,” Hasenmueller added. “We think what is probably happening is that, after the cave floods, particles in the water are deposited into the sediment. As the waters recede, that material remains in the cave sediment, potentially for decades or longer. And, when the water level goes down, microplastic concentrations in the water are much lower.”

Despite being blocked off from humans, the cave still feels their impact. Cliff Cave is located near residential areas that could be contributing microplastics to the system, a finding which aligns with previous research by SLU’s WATER Institute that shows population density is the biggest factor determining where microplastics are found in nature. Hasenmueller said with these findings, there are some things people can do to limit the amount of microplastics they may be contributing to the environment.

“It's hard for us as individuals to deal with plastic pollution because of the pervasiveness of these materials, but it helps to be mindful of your personal plastic use,” Hasenmueller said. “Individuals can avoid buying plastic materials like synthetic textiles used in clothing, but doing so presents challenges to everyday consumers. On a larger scale, we, as a society, could move away from synthetic clothing, because a lot of the debris that we found in this cave was synthetic fibers from textiles. And, of course, reducing our overall plastic production and consumption would help as well.”

Microplastics not only potentially do damage to the cave environment, but they also affect wildlife that call Cliff Cave home. Bats, amphibians, and other animals move freely throughout the cave, and microplastics could disrupt their delicate habitat. Microplastics are not just a human problem, but also an environmental problem, and Hasenmueller calls for more research to ensure the contamination does not become worse.

“Understanding what level of threat microplastics pose to the unique and rare animals that only inhabit cave systems is really important,” Hasenmueller said. “Only a handful of studies have assessed microplastics in these types of underground ecosystems. So, our work provides resource managers with the information they need to be thinking about to protect these fragile habitats from emerging contaminants like microplastics.”

END


ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:

Genetic variation with MASLD reveals subtypes and potential therapeutic avenues

2023-09-27
An astounding 30% of Americans currently have metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease, or MASLD, which is formerly known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. And many are unaware that they have it. Over time, MASLD can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and even liver cancer. The disease is also associated with and might be caused by factors that contribute to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. “Many people are not aware that MASLD can also be a sign of another condition, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease,” said Elizabeth Speliotes, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., gastroenterologist at Michigan Medicine ...

Expert: The current pace of decarbonization in Massachusetts is too low to meet climate goals

Expert: The current pace of decarbonization in Massachusetts is too low to meet climate goals
2023-09-27
Media contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations, Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu   Having worked with renewables for the last 15 years, and listening to the lofty goals political leaders make to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, UMass Lowell mechanical engineering Professor Christopher Niezrecki can tell you that as a state and a nation, we’re not on track. It’s not easy to wrap one’s head around the scale of the problem and even harder to come up with viable solutions. There is global scientific consensus that ...

Department of Energy announces $30 million for research to accelerate scientific advances at user facilities

2023-09-27
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $30 million in funding for three projects to increase scientific productivity and discoveries across DOE light source, neutron source, and high-performance computing and networking facilities. The DOE Office of Science provides researchers with access to the most advanced tools of modern science. The awarded projects are focused on developing the computational mathematics and scientific computing research needed to accelerate discovery and innovation at DOE’s X-ray and neutron source user facilities. “Scientific research is becoming ever more dependent on complex data ...

Internet-based therapy may help depression in people with multiple sclerosis

2023-09-27
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Major depressive disorder affects up to 50% of all individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) at some point during their lifetime and can lead to lower quality of life, greater disease progression and higher mortality. Patients enrolled in a phase 3 trial of an internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy program modified specifically for MS showed a large drop in depressive symptoms compared to a control group. The online program may offer an effective and easily accessible way to manage depression and lead to better quality of life for persons with ...

UNF receives substantial legislative funding to combat nursing shortage

UNF receives substantial legislative funding to combat nursing shortage
2023-09-27
The University of North Florida has been awarded matching State legislative funding of nearly $800K based upon the School of Nursing's (SON) successful healthcare partnerships with Mayo Clinic, HCA Healthcare South Atlantic Division and Baptist Health.      The Florida legislative budget allowance and Linking Industry to Nursing Education (LINE) Fund is contributing to nursing program enhancements including growing scholarships for UNF nursing students, opening the UNF MedNexus Deerwood Simulation Center, developing cohorts of undergraduate nursing students in the UNF accelerated prelicensure program and enhancing the UNF-HCA Simulation Center experience.      This ...

NIH study identifies foods to help pregnant people optimize intake of key nutrients

NIH study identifies foods to help pregnant people optimize intake of key nutrients
2023-09-27
Most pregnant people in the U.S. are at risk of not getting enough of six nutrients important to a healthy pregnancy—vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids—from foods alone. Yet finding a combination of foods and supplements that delivers the right amounts of these nutrients without exceeding calorie recommendations or safety limits can be challenging. In a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers from NIH’s Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program wanted to find low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods that could boost nutrient intake, much like dietary supplements do. They calculated ...

Carnegie Mellon University launches WebAssembly Research Center

2023-09-27
Carnegie Mellon University has launched the WebAssembly Research Center to harness the potential of the open-source platform. The internet isn't just the internet anymore. Increasingly, users turn to the web to stream videos, play games, shop, edit photos, collaborate with colleagues and more. Those users expect the internet to work seamlessly on everything from a computer to a smartphone. To make that happen means juggling code in different languages written for different platforms. WebAssembly (Wasm) was created to do just that. "Ultimately, all software could one day run on WebAssembly," said Ben Titzer, director ...

Racial discrimination among teens linked to unhealthy stress hormone levels

2023-09-27
Audio Scientists already know that the stress caused by racial discrimination is related to a host of chronic health conditions, but less is known about which types of discrimination are most harmful.    To answer that question, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology surveyed 100 adolescents aged 13-19, who had obesity or who were overweight, about their experiences with institutional, peer, educational and cumulative discrimination.    They measured their salivary cortisol ...

Psychological aspects of erectile dysfunction deserve more attention, health scientists say

2023-09-27
Washington, DC (September 27, 2023) -- Personality traits and mental health problems are among the factors linked to erectile dysfunction (ED), a condition that affects up to 80% of men over the age of 60. But researchers often overlook these psychological causes and their treatments in favor of biological components of ED, according to a new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science.  In a review of existing research, Mark S. Allen, Alex M. Wood (Leeds Trinity University), and David Sheffield ...

Ochsner Health named to Newsweek’s America’s Greatest Workplaces for Parents and Families 2023

2023-09-27
NEW ORLEANS– Ochsner Health was recently named one of the 2023 America’s Greatest Workplaces for Parents and Families by Newsweek and market-data research firm Plant-A Insights Group. A large-scale employer study based on over 224,000 company reviews aided in selecting 800 companies and organizations nationwide for the inaugural list. “It is an honor to be named among the greatest workplaces in the nation for parents and families. Our top priority at Ochsner is to put patients first, and we know employees are at their best when they have a healthy work-life balance directly correlating with the high-quality care offered to our patients ...

LAST 30 PRESS RELEASES:

Breakthrough in nanoscale force measurement opens doors to unprecedented biological insights

Scientists discover new behavior of membranes that could lead to unprecedented separations

When inflicting pain on others pays off T

The Lancet: Managing gestational diabetes much earlier in pregnancy can prevent complications and improve long-term health outcomes, experts say

New study finds dinosaur fossils did not inspire the mythological griffin

NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg to deliver keynote address at ISSRDC focused on developing a space workforce

Study: Fatigue-management training improved sleep, safety, well-being for Seattle police

Guiding humanity beyond the moon: OHIO’s Nate Szewczyk and students coauthor papers published in “Nature” journals that revolutionize human space biology

Grant supports research to identify barriers to health care for Black women

Scientists at uOttawa develop innovative method to validate quantum photonics circuits performance

New report on community-centered approach to providing vaccine education and resources to persons experiencing homelessness during COVID-19

Government updates race and ethnicity data collection standards: implications and insights

Dr. Vivek S. Kavadi named CEO of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO)

Dietary sucrose determines activity of lithium on gene expression and lifespan in drosophila melanogaster

Assessment of CEA, CA-125, and CA19-9 as adjuncts in non-small cell lung cancer management

Iron meteorites hint that our infant solar system was more doughnut than dartboard

Anti-trust regulators should consider their options carefully when start-ups are acquired, new study suggests

Family conditions may have more of an impact on upward social mobility than gender inequality

People with higher weight, and those who have high-quality experiences with higher-weight people, report less weight bias, per social psychology study of US adults

In two separate clinical studies, combined immunotherapy approach enhances cancer patient response

Airborne mapping reveals roles for biogenic sources and temperature in air pollution emissions in Los Angeles

Old bombs reveal new insights: Plants store more carbon, but for a shorter time frame, than we thought

The time it takes a person to decide can predict their preference

Hurricane changed ‘rules of the game’ in monkey society

Researchers widely observe yet seldom publish about same-sex sexual behavior in primates and other mammals - often because it is perceived to be rare

Wild chimpanzees seek out medicinal plants to treat illness and injuries

New catalyst unveils the hidden power of water for green hydrogen generation

Supermassive black hole appears to grow like a baby star

Early detection crucial in bile duct cancer for patients with rare liver disease

BCMA-CD19 bispecific CAR-T therapy in refractory chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy

[Press-News.org] Microplastics are found in cave water and sediment, says SLU research
In spite of isolation, Missouri caves show human impact