The tenuous plastic fibers, visible only through the magnified view of a microscope, sent Jacob Peterson reeling into eddies of anxiety.
The sudden upwelling of fear wasn’t completely new. The biology student suffered from anxiety in other areas of his life. But this was the first time his own research triggered the feeling.
“Realizing how much microplastic was in tap water and our drinking water really freaked me out,” he said. “When we started the project, we thought ‘Oh we’re going to find it in a few samples.’”
They found more than a few.
“It started to affect me a lot. I would be sitting there looking at my Nalgene and go, ‘Oh my God,’” he said.
Researchers ‘stunned’ by prevalence
Over the course of nine weeks in 2018, the avid kayaker and outdoorsman collected a dozen water samples a week from various spots on the Spokane River. Peterson, then a senior at Gonzaga University, processed and analyzed the samples under the tutelage of Betsy Bancroft, a professor of biology and environmental studies at Gonzaga.
On average he found 12 microplastics in every Nalgene-water-bottle sized sample. The results of his research have not been published or peer […]