Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 November 2019

Snow falling in the Arctic is now contaminated with microplastic

Scientists were shocked to find the levels of microplastic contamination in one of the most remote places on earth

Scientists say that even in remote regions such as the Arctic and the Alps the snow is polluted with microplastics. EPA/KAJETAN DEJA/ALFRED WEGENER INSTITUT
Scientists say that even in remote regions such as the Arctic and the Alps the snow is polluted with microplastics. EPA/KAJETAN DEJA/ALFRED WEGENER INSTITUT

Even the most remote places on the planet are not safe from plastic pollution. Scientists now say microscopic plastic particles are falling out of the sky with snow in the Arctic.

The new research, published in the Journal of Science Advances, found there to be to 10,000 of these microplastic particles per litre of snow in samples from the Arctic.

Scientists were shocked by the findings, which also found rubber particles and fibres.

It means that even in the Arctic, which is often seen as one of the world’s last remaining pristine environments, people are likely to be breathing in microplastics through the air.

epa07774592 An undated handout photo made available by the Alfred Wegener Institut (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, on 15 August 2019 shows sea ice in the Arctic. Scientists at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute announced on 14 Augsut 2019 that even in remote regions such as the Arctic and the Alps the snow is polluted with microplastics (MPs); with varnish, rubber, polyethylene, and polyamide particles dominating overall, indicating significant contamination of the atmosphere. Experts believe that microplastic, defined as particles below 5mm in size, is blown about by winds and transported long distances through the atmosphere and snow to the Arctic sea. Researchers collected snow samples from the Arctic (Svalbard) and in populated (Heligoland, Bremen and Bavaria in Germany) and remote (Tschuggen and Davos in Switzerland) European sites. EPA/KAJETAN DEJA/ALFRED WEGENER INSTITUT HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Microplastics are falling from the sky with snow in the Arctic. EPA/KAJETAN DEJA/ALFRED WEGENER INSTITUT

“We expected to find some contamination but to find this many microplastics was a real shock,” Dr Melanie Bergmann, the lead scientist behind the new research, told the BBC. “It’s readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air.”

The research means that the prevalence of microplastics in our atmosphere is an even bigger problem than scientists conducting the study expected.

The team of German-Swiss scientists also looked at samples from other locations including parts of Germany and the Swiss Alps, where microplastic levels were 20 times higher than in the Arctic.

While the health implications of ingesting microplastics are not yet clear, scientists are now demanding urgent research into this area.

Microplastics are categorised as particles below 5mm in size.

Updated: August 16, 2019 11:09 AM

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