Studies have found that levels of plastic pollution in Lake Geneva are as high as those in the oceans.
Lake Geneva (also called Lehmann), nestled at the foot of the Alps, was until now considered an extremely clean body of water.
Geneva-based non-profit Oceanai, which has been scouring the seas for more than a decade to collect plastic fragments, this time turned its attention closer to home — to landlocked Switzerland.
Less Plastics in the Global Ocean Than Expected
"We compared pollution levels with data from the oceans and concluded that microplastic pollution on the surface of the lake is of the same order of magnitude as that in the oceans," said Pascal Hagman, founder and director of Oceanai. "This is interesting because we often think of Lake Lehman as a large alpine lake with crystal waters, but in fact it is not."
The lake, which is in the form of a crescent, is the largest in Western Europe. Its area is equal to 580 square kilometers and covers parts of France and Switzerland. The water in it accumulates in part from alpine glaciers. It flows into the Rhone River, which in turn flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
The border cantons of Switzerland process the water and then drop it into the pipes in people's homes in the form of drinking water. One of the cities on the shores of the lake – Evian (on the side of the French border), has also given the name of a brand of bottled spring water.
Microplastics are the result of the degradation of various consumer and industrial plastic waste over time. They concentrate and accumulate in the world's oceans. Microplastics can be found even in the blood samples of unborn babies, and scientists are trying to understand what are the health risks caused by this phenomenon.
Hagman said he feared the growing consumption of plastic over time would lead to more waste ending up in water supply systems.
"We see that the growth curve is rising very quickly. The forecasts are pessimistic if we do nothing," he added, but still admitted that now at least more people are aware of the problem. "When we started working on this 12 years ago and talked about the plastic fragments in the water, people took us crazy, and now that problem is fixed."