Study: it snows microplastics

study: it snows microplastics

Microplastic particles trickle out of the air with snow onto the earth’s surface – even in the remote arctic.

The tiny particles with a size of less than five millimeters are transported in the atmosphere and can thus be distributed over long distances, according to a team of researchers led by the alfred wegener institute for polar and marine research (AWI) in bremerhaven. According to this, it is obvious that the air is considerably polluted with microplastics. Possible health effects should be studied in detail in the future, write the scientists in the journal "science advances".

Melanie bergmann and her colleagues had analyzed snow samples from helgoland, bavaria, bremen, the swiss alps and the arctic, both from the spitzbergen archipelago and from several ice floes. They melted the snow, filtered the water and analyzed the residue by infrared spectroscopy. This is how plastic pressure levels can be detected and analyzed.

The scientists found microplastics in almost all of the samples studied. The snippet content in the snow samples from the arctic was lower than in the european samples, however, it was still "substantial". On average, 1760 particles per liter of meltwater were found in the arctic samples. On an ice floe, 14.400 particles per liter collected. For comparison: the most highly contaminated sample – taken next to a country road in bavaria – was 154.000 particles per liter. The size of the particles ranged from 11 to 474 micrometers (millionths of a meter), with the especially small ones outweighing the rest: 80 percent of all particles were smaller than 25 micrometers.

The particles include paint particles, nitrile rubber and polyamides, among others. They can come from coatings on vehicles or buildings, from abrasion from tires or even shoe soles, and from numerous other common plastics. When they are stirred up and enter the atmosphere, they are transported by air currents, the scientists report. Snow then binds the particles and takes them with it to the surface of the earth.

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