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article imageMicroplastics found drifting down with snowfall

By Tim Sandle     Aug 16, 2019 in Environment
Microplastics have been detected in every part of planet, on land and in the oceans. New research finds microplastic particles are drifting down with the snow with events recorded in the Alps and the Arctic.
he new finding suggests that microplastic particles can also be transported by the atmosphere and subsequently washed out of the air, particularly by snow and reaching remote regions like the Arctic and Alps. The recordings of the microplastic particles come from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research.
While there has been considerable research into the presence of microplastics in the oceans, where the impact upon marine life is considerable, there has not been much research into whether microplastic particles are transported by the atmosphere, and where this is recorded, to what extent this occurs. The new German-led study attempts to address this.
The findings show how microplastic particles are transported over large distances in the atmosphere (carried in air currents) and are later washed out of the air, and back to land, by precipitation, especially falling snow. The inspiration for looking into this area was pollen. As it was known that pollen can be swept upwards and then return to Earth, could the same phenomenon happen with microplastic particles? This was the research hypothesis set by Dr Melanie Bergmann and Dr Gunnar Gerdts.
From the areas looked at, the researchers established that the highest concentration of microplastics was from samples taken close to a rural road in Bavaria. Here it was found there were 154,000 particles per liter, from precipitation. With snow, the highest concentration was in the Arctic, where samples were found to contain up to 14,400 particles per liter.
In terms of the source of particles in snow, these were found to be traces of nitrile rubber, acrylates and paint. The origins will be diverse: nitrile rubber is used in gaskets and hoses; and paints containing plastic are used in applications like coating the surfaces of buildings, or with ships, or cars. This demonstrates a further global concern with microplastic pollution.
The new research is discussed in the journal Science Advances, with the paper headed "White and wonderful? Microplastics prevail in snow from the Alps to the Arctic."
More about microplastics, Plastic pollution, Pollution, Snow
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