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Waste problem Dangerous toxin levels found in Lake Geneva

Pile of rubbish on grass in front of a lake and sailing boats

Plastic waste in lake Geneva has released pollutants into the water.


Analysis of plastic waste washed up from Lake Geneva has revealed hazardous levels of bromine and cadmium that presents a clear threat to wildlife. Researchers also detected high concentrations of mercury and lead among the litter.

Switzerland has an international reputation for cleanliness and pristine landscape, but a team of scientists from the University of Geneva and Britain has revealed that the lake is as susceptible to plastic waste problems as the ocean.

The team analysed 3,000 objects, such as toys, pens, cotton swabs, food packaging and fragments of foam and polystyrene that washed up on the shores of the lake. Some 600 waste objects were also x-rayed in the laboratory.

The bromine content of 19 articles was above the European Union limit while dangerous levels of cadmium were found in 57 articles. Lead was detected in a quarter of all objects, with 65 showing levels above the EU threshold.

Publishing the results in the ‘Frontiers in Environmental Scienceexternal link’ journal, researchers said many objects had likely been floating in the water for a long time.

The report’s authors warned that the plastic waste represents a threat to wildlife, either by eating or becoming entangled in objects, or through contamination by toxins. Furthermore, many objects represented a hazard to boats as they could foul propellers.

The report made no mention of the toxic waste posing a significant threat to human safety.

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