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Oftentimes, when we think of pollution in Lake Tahoe, we think of the classic images of trash floating in the water or a smoggy horizon. However, there is a much smaller and nearly invisible type of pollution that is having devastating effects on the health of Lake Tahoe- microplastics.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are less than 5mm in size and come from a variety of sources, such as cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes. These plastics can end up in our waterways through runoff or sewage overflows, and once they’re in the water, they are very difficult to remove. In lake Tahoe, littering is the main source of microplastics. When litter, such as plastic bags or straws, breaks down into smaller pieces, it becomes microplastic.

Effects microplastics have on Lake Tahoe

Harming the creatures that live in the lake

Fish and other aquatic animals often mistake microplastics for food and end up ingesting them. This can cause digestive issues, reduced growth, and even death. Additionally, microplastics can absorb pollutants like pesticides and chemicals, which can then be passed on to the animals that eat them.

Making their way into our food supply

If fish and other animals are eating microplastics, it stands to reason that we could end up consuming them as well. Studies have found microplastics in mussels, oysters, shrimp, and even table salt. While the effects of microplastics on human health are not yet known, it is safe to assume that they are not good for us.

brown-trout
plastic-in-the-lake

Polluting our drinking water

Lake Tahoe is a major source of drinking water for California and Nevada, and microplastics have been found in tap water samples from both states. While the levels of microplastics in our water are currently low, they are expected to increase as the pollution problem gets worse.

Harming the beauty of Lake Tahoe

Microplastics are often mistaken for food by birds and other animals, which can lead to them becoming entangled in the plastic or ingesting it. This not only harms the animals but also pollutes the lake and makes it less enjoyable for humans.

Contributing to climate change

Microplastics are made from petroleum products, which release greenhouse gases when they are produced. Additionally, microplastics do not biodegrade, so they will remain in the environment for centuries, continuing to pollute our waterways and contributing to climate change.

The effects of microplastics on Lake Tahoe are clear. This invisible pollution is harming the lake’s ecosystem, our food supply, and our health. It is also contributing to climate change. We must take action to reduce the number of microplastics in our environment and protect Lake Tahoe for future generations.

What can you do to reduce microplastics in Lake Tahoe?

  • Recycle. One of the best ways to reduce microplastics is to recycle. Make sure you are recycling all of your plastic bottles, cups, and containers.
  • Reduce your use of single-use plastics. Bring a reusable water bottle with you when you hike or camp in Lake Tahoe. Say no to straws and plastic bags.
  • Pick up litter. If you see litter, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Littering is one of the main ways that microplastics end up in Lake Tahoe.
  • Educate others about the problem of microplastics. The more people that are aware of the issue, the more likely they are to take action. Spread the word about the effects of microplastics and what we can do to reduce them.

The health of Lake Tahoe is essential to the well-being of California and Nevada. We must take action to protect this precious resource from the threat of microplastics. Living in the garbage for this little unidentified fish a couple of hundred feet deep in Lake Tahoe.

unidentified fish