Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 1821–1830 | Cite as

Microplastic contamination in freshwater: first observation in Lake Ulansuhai, Yellow River Basin, China

  • Zhichao Wang
  • Yiming Qin
  • Weiping LiEmail author
  • Wenhuan Yang
  • Qing Meng
  • Jianlin Yang
Original Paper


Microplastic pollution has been widely studied in the marine environment, but is much less explored in terrestrial waters, notably in China. Therefore, we studied the degree of microplastic pollution in surface waters of Lake Ulansuhai, a major freshwater lake in the Yellow River basin of northern China. Results show microplastic concentrations ranging from 1760 ± 710 to 10,120 ± 4090 n/m3. The microplastic spatial distribution is heterogeneous, with higher levels near the drainage canal entrance of Lake Ulansuhai, and a downward trend from north to south in the lake. The main type of microplastics is colored particles, including fibers as the most abundant. More than 80% of microplastics were smaller than 2 mm. FTIR analysis results show that the main plastics were polyethylene, polystyrene and polybutylene terephthalate. There were also some metallic elements adsorbed on the surface of microplastics, such as Fe, Ca and Zn, detected by energy-dispersive spectrometry. The presence of metallic elements may worsen water pollution.


Microplastic Contamination Freshwater Yellow River Hetao Irrigation District Lake Ulansuhai 



We thank editors and reviewers for their helpful suggestions on the paper. This project was supported in part by the National Natural Science Fund (41263010), Inner Mongolia Science and Technology Innovation Guidance Project (KCBJ2018033), Scientific Research Projects of University in Inner Mongolia (NJZY19132).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Energy and EnvironmentInner Mongolia University of Science and TechnologyBaotouChina

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