Plastic particles falling out of sky with snow

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Plastic particles falling out of sky with snow

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:30 pm

Plastic particles falling out of sky with snow

By Roger Harrabin BBC environment analyst Locals are 'sad' about the changes in the Arctic they've seen Even in the Arctic, microscopic particles of plastic are falling out of the sky with snow, a study has found. The scientists said they were shocked by the sheer number of particles they found: more than 10,000 of them per litre in the Arctic. It means that even there, people are likely to be breathing in microplastics from the air - though the health implications remain unclear. The region is often seen as one of the world's last pristine environments. A German-Swiss team of researchers has published the work in the journal Science Advances. The scientists also found rubber particles and fibres in the snow. How did the researchers carry out the study? Samples of Arctic snowAlfred-Wegener-Institut / Mine Tekman The researchers collected samples of snow in flasks Researchers collected snow samples from the Svalbard islands using a low-tech method - a dessert spoon and a flask. In the laboratory at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven they discovered far more contaminating particles than they'd expected. Many were so small that it was hard to ascertain where they had come from. The majority appeared to be composed of natural materials like plant cellulose and animal fur. But there were also particles of plastic, along with fragments of rubber tyres, varnish, paint and possibly synthetic fibres. Sampling in Bremen, GermanyAlfred-Wegener-Institut / Melanie Bergmann The team also sampled snow from sites in Germany and Switzerland The lead scientist, Dr Melanie Bergmann, told BBC News: "We expected to find some contamination but to find this many microplastics was a real shock." She said: "It's readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air." Microplastics are defined as those particles below 5mm in size. Addressing their potential effects on people, Dr Bergmann explained: "We don't know if the plastics will be harmful to human health or not. But we need to take much better care of the way we're treating our environment." The scientists also analysed snow from sites in Germany and Switzerland. Samples taken from some areas of Germany showed higher concentrations than in the Arctic. How is plastic pollution reaching the Arctic? The researchers think microplastics are being blown about by winds and then - through mechanisms which are not fully understood - transported long distances through the atmosphere. The particles are then "washed" out of the atmosphere through precipitation, particularly snow. A study published in April by a British-French team showed that microplastics were falling from the sky onto the French Pyrenees, another supposedly pristine region. Previously, research groups have found plastics in the atmospheric fallout of Dongguan, China, Tehran in Iran, and Paris, France. As for where the pollution is coming from, here too there are uncertainties. Ice floe near Spitsbergen, SvalbardGetty Images The Arctic is regarded as one of the last pristine environments on Earth The presence of so many varnish particles in the Arctic was a puzzle. The researchers assume that some of the contamination may have come from ships grinding against the ice. But they also speculate that some may have come off wind turbines. The fibre fragments may be from people's clothing, although it's not possible to tell at the moment. Dr Bergmann explained: "We have to ask - do we need so much plastic packaging? Do we need all the polymers in the paints we use? Can we come up with differently designed car tyres? These are important issues." Dr Eldbjørg Sofie Heimstad, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, who was not involved in the latest study, told me that some of the particle pollution was local and some had drifted from afar. She said: "We know that most of what we are analysing up there and measuring are long-range transported pollution coming from [Europe], from Asia, coming from all over the world. "Some of these chemicals have properties that are a threat for the ecosystem, for living animals." Plastic wasteAlice Trevail Fragments of plastic are found at high concentrations in Arctic seawater What does this mean for the Arctic? The results follow on the heels of our exclusive report last year that the highest concentrations of plastic particles in the ocean were to be found in Arctic sea-ice. Plastic waste is also drifting for hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to land on remote Arctic beaches. It is depressing news for people who have regarded the far north as one of the last pristine environments on Earth. At a dog sledding centre near Tromsø in the Norwegian Arctic, one of the staff, Lili, told us: "It makes me incredibly sad. We've got plastics in the sea-ice. We've got plastics in the ocean and on the beaches. Now plastic in snow. "Up here we see the beauty of it every day, and to see that it's changing so much and being tainted - it hurts." Follow Roger on Twitter.
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-49295051
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Re: Plastic particles falling out of sky with snow

Postby chump » Wed Aug 14, 2019 11:10 pm

via Cryptogon

Guardian

It's raining plastic: microscopic fibers fall from the sky in Rocky Mountains

Discovery raises new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth
13 Aug 2019

Plastic was the furthest thing from Gregory Wetherbee’s mind when he began analyzing rainwater samples collected from the Rocky Mountains. “I guess I expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles,” said the US Geological Survey researcher. Instead, he found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers.

The discovery, published in a recent study (pdf) titled “It is raining plastic”, raises new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth.

“I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye,” said Wetherbee. “It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.”

Rainwater samples collected across Colorado and analyzed under a microscope contained a rainbow of plastic fibers, as well as beads and shards. The findings shocked Wetherbee, who had been collecting the samples in order to study nitrogen pollution.

[… con’d]


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Re: Plastic particles falling out of sky with snow

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:44 am

Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in Arctic snow, according to alarming new research
Previously, microplastics have been found in our food, cosmetics, drinking water and oceans. But a new study reveals that the tiny plastic particles, which are smaller than 5 millimeters, have now found their way into snow.

The findings point out that the plastic particles, which emerge when man-made materials disintegrate, are being distributed through the air, taking the tiny fragments to the most remote places in the world.

Read more: Scientists have created magnetic coils thinner than a human hair that could break down plastic in the ocea n

Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute and the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF-WSL analyzed snow samples from Helgoland, Bavaria, Bremen, the Swiss Alps, and the Arctic and found that the total microplastic concentration in the snow was significantly higher than previously assumed.

Snow sample from Arctic sea
Microplastics on ice floes in Greenland are proof that the tiny fragments are being transported to the most remote places in the world.
Alfred Wegener Institute / Kajetan Deja
Although the study, published in " Science Advances", shows that the proportion of microplastics is lower in areas further away from densely populated and industrialized cities, the researchers were also able to detect particles on ice floes in Greenland. The concentration of microplastics was particularly high in Bavaria, where the scientists found 154,000 plastic particles per liter of snow. Snow samples from the Arctic showed 14,400 particles per liter.

Read more: An 18-year-old has found a way to use 'magnetic liquid' invented by NASA to remove harmful microplastics from water

The Swiss researchers also assume that the majority of the plastic detected in snow comes from other parts of Europe. Similar to pollen grains, the microplastic particles may be distributed via the air, which means they can be transported over long distances and would explain the quantities found on ice floes in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

ICE3
Ice samples were taken from Bavaria, Bremen, Helgoland, the Swiss Alps and the Arctic.
Alfred Wegener Institute/ Kajetan Deja
The study also raises questions about human exposure to microplastics, which could potentially pose a health risk. "Once we've determined that large quantities of microplastic can also be transported by air, it naturally raises the question as to whether and how much plastic we're inhaling," said marine ecologist Melanie Bergmann, who co-led the research.

Varnish, rubber found in tires and fragments that could have come from textiles or packaging are among the few materials found in the snow samples.

"We really need to know what effects microplastics have on humans. Especially if inhaled with the air that we breathe."
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