Microplastics Are Being Blown To The World's Most Pristine Places
Scientists have discovered that the wind is carrying tiny plastic particles to areas they absolutely should not be.
Researchers are finding microplastics everywhere and anywhere; in rivers, oceans, soils and now, even mountain tops.
These tiny, tiny particles -- ranging from a few nanometers to five millimetres in size -- are travelling through the wind and are raining down on mountains far from human settlements, like in the Pyrenees, France.
Scientists already knew that microplastics could linger in the air of big cities, but a study, published in Nature Geoscience, is the first to show just how far plastic pollution can be carried in the atmosphere.
From November 2017 to March 2018, experts from France and the U.K. collected wet and dry samples from high altitudes -- 1,400 meters above sea level -- in the Pyrenees, 120km from the nearest city.
They found an average of 365 plastic particles, fibres and films were deposited per square metre every day.
“It was incredible how much microplastic was being deposited,” atmospheric and environmental scientist Deonie Allen, who co-authored the study, said. “We found them somewhere they shouldn’t be.”
The rate is similar to that recorded in Paris but the size and composition differed.
“Because we were on the top of a remote mountain, and there is no close source, there is the potential for microplastic to be anywhere and everywhere,” Allen continued.
At least 335 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year with the amount of plastic pollution expected to double by 2030, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
It degrades very slowly over time and eventually breaks down into microplastic particles. A 2015 study suggests there are up to 51 trillion -- one trillion is one thousand billion -- particles floating on the surface of oceans alone.
These plastics easily absorb chemicals, can host harmful bacteria and have been described as a significant threat to marine life.
They were found in every marine mammal studied in a recent UK survey and even showed up in the Arctic, trapped in sea ice and floating in the ocean.