Scientists detect microplastics in Lake Tahoe for the first time

Scientists detect microplastics in Lake Tahoe for the first time
© Getty Images

Scientists have uncovered microplastic pollution in Lake Tahoe for the first time in recorded history, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the newspaper, scientists with the Desert Research Institute found particles of synthetic fiber and pieces of plastic in samples they collected in various locations at the 22-mile-long lake, which flows along the California-Nevada border.

ADVERTISEMENT

Monica Arienzo, an assistant research professor at the institute and leader of the research effort, told the paper that researchers “really hoped we wouldn’t find much of this material in Tahoe’s water,” adding that the team was “heartbroken and disappointed by this discovery.” 

However, Arienzo said the team is also excited by the chance to take a deep dive “into the many questions and concerns it raises.”

Now, Arienzo said the team is trying to figure out the origin of the microplastics, which can be a difficult task given the particles' ability to travel across the globe by way of air and water.

According to the paper, Arienzo's team partnered with a science program operated by the nonprofit League to Save Lake Tahoe, which recently oversaw the collection of more than 1,800 pounds of trash at Lake Tahoe left behind by Fourth of July visitors this year, for the effort. 

A senior science analyst with the nonprofit, Zack Bradford, told the paper that “turning up this stuff at a world-famous nearly pristine mountain lake may move people to take action.”

“We’ll see,” he added.

The discovery arrives on the heels of similar findings published earlier this month that detected high quantities of microplastics in the Arctic.