The alarming plastic pollution crippling all of life is not new anymore. There’s plastic in the ocean. There’s plastic in the forests. There’s plastic in the air. There’s plastic in our food and water. By Shubhanjana Das
A recent discovery by scientists revealed in the journal Sciences Advance says this issue has leaped to new heights altogether. It is confirmed that micro-plastics can also be found in the Arctic snow. Collected from sites in Northern Germany, Bavarian Alps, Swiss Alps, and North Sea island of Heligoland, micro-plastics are now getting sucked into the Earth’s atmosphere, proving it to be all-pervasive.
There were large amounts of micro-plastics in the snow samples collected by a German-Swiss research team. The highest amount of micro-plastics was found to be present in the samples collected from the Bavarian Alps with a whopping 154,000 micro-plastics in just a liter. These numbers are especially jarring considering that the area is remote and scarcely populated by humans. The snow was carefully collected only from the samples so as to note how much of it was brought on by fresh precipitation.
Even though water, as an agent of micro-plastics, is already well-established, scientists have started to investigate one of the other significant agent – the air. The study goes on to suggest that the micro-plastics were carried by air. Earlier, studies showed that pollen and dust particles can travel long distances. Since micro-plastics behave in a similar manner, it’s possible they were carried by air to reach even the Arctic.
What are micro-plastics anyway?
Micro-plastics are telescopic pieces of broken down plastics, smaller than five mm in length. Earlier, studies had shown the presence of micro-plastics in the stomach of fish, beer, honey, and even bottled drinking water. Since plastic is non-biodegradable, it simply breaks down into smaller pieces on coming in contact with the natural forces, rendering it much more harmful than whole plastic pieces.
What kind of micro-plastics were found in the Arctic snow?
You will be surprised to learn about the source of these micro-plastics. Scientists found that some particles came from the paints used to coat the surfaces of automobiles and ships, while some rubbery particles could have been from boat parts or packaging materials.
The presence of micro-plastics should be a significant consideration while calculating the air pollution levels worldwide. This study is expected to lead to subsequent research to understand how micro-plastics can affect human and animal health. It can also be used to study how they cause degradation of soil, water, and snow. So far, we already know that respiratory irritation, fibrosis, and inflammation are some of the side effects.