Microplastics, the toxic relics of modern times, have occupied seemingly every part of the planet in recent times. Even the most remote areas of the surreal Arctic and the Alps are not safe anymore.
Studies indicate that particles are being carried by the wind and later washed out in the snow to some of the most remote locations on earth, including the Arctic. According to a study, that called for urgent research to assess the health risks of inhalation.
Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research examined snow from various locations, including the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Comprising German and Swiss scientists, the team discovered 14,400 particles of plastic per liter in the sample. Researchers are of the opinion that the plastics were blown there over large distances and were brought down by precipitation over isolated areas.
Each year several million tons of plastic litter course through rivers and out into the oceans where the elements gradually break them down into smaller fragments.
The scientists found the highest concentration of plastic particles in the Bavarian Alps. Researchers found 154,000 particles per liter in a snow sample gathered near a rural road in Bavaria.
Scientists have been looking for certain proofs, facts, and answers on how this flood of pollutants make its way to such remote locations far from the usual centers where it is actually generated. Recent studies conducted by scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany and Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research situated in Switzerland discovered that micro-plastics could be carried over tremendous distances through the atmosphere. Those particles which measure less than 5 mm in length are later washed out of the air by precipitation, mainly snow. According to Melanic Bergmann, the lead author of a journal published in Science Advances, much of the microplastics are airborne.
The researchers landed in a helicopter and retrieved samples during an 18-day icebreaker expedition through the North passage. From afar the scientists including Jacob Strock, a researcher at the University of Rhode Island, who conducted an initial onboard analysis of the cores, could see only pristine ice floating on the sea. But they were in for a shock.
Seen from close, it was obviously contaminated and when examined with the proper equipment, the enormity of the problem dawned on them. Strock’s team drew 18 ice cores covering 4 locations and witnessed visible plastic bits and filaments of various shapes and sizes. According to scientists and other experts, the findings shed light on the observation that micro-plastic pollution appears to concentrate in ice relative to seawater
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What is worrying is that the reach of micro-plastics is not confined to the areas inhabited by man. It seems that snow is extremely efficient in washing snow out of the air which resulted in such large amounts of micro-plastic being dumped on the Arctic snow.
This brings us to the other pertinent question; how much plastic are we inhaling?
IMAGE CREDIT: Andrii IURLOV
IMAGE CREDIT2: olegdudko