Microplastics hit home: Tennessee River among the most plastic polluted in the world

Andrew Capps, Knoxville News Sentinel

Microplastics, or tiny pieces of various types of plastic less than 5 millimeters long, have long been accumulating in sources of freshwater and the world’s oceans, and a new report following a 34-day swim of the Tennessee River found it is among the most plastic-polluted rivers in the world.

While differing methods of measuring and reporting make direct comparisons a challenge, according to geology and hydrology professor Dr. Martin Knoll of the University of the South in Sewanee, microplastic levels in the Tennessee River are among the highest ever measured.

Dr. Andreas Fath, who spent 34 days last summer swimming the 652 miles of the Tennessee River from Knoxville to Paducah, Kentucky, and his team analyzed three samples of the 12 they collected and found close to 18,000 microplastic particles per cubic meter of water in the Tennessee River.

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