Microplastics are becoming an increasing concern, as the tiny non biodegradable particles — less than a fifth of an inch in size — are infiltrating our water supplies and posing a threat to environmental health.
Their impact on humans is not yet clear, but microplastics have increasingly been found in human bodies.
Now, a study led by the University of Oldenburg in Germany, summarized in SciTechDaily, has found a worrying source of microplastics: the air.
What did the study find?
The study, conducted in collaboration with German and Norwegian researchers, took air samples in areas stretching from the Norwegian coastline to the Arctic.
After analyzing the samples, the researchers identified the types of plastic particles in the atmosphere, including polyester, polyethylene terephthalate — likely from the fashion industry — polypropylene polycarbonate, and polystyrene.
Debris from tires was also a significant source of microplastics.
How is this happening?
The researchers believe plastic particles on the sea surface are being released into the atmosphere during storms via the spray caused by waves. It was also suggested that air bubbles on the surface that burst are contributors.
One way plastic finds its way to our oceans is through river systems, either from littering or inappropriate disposal. Additionally, some cosmetic products contain microplastics, which are often washed away by domestic drainage.
It’s unfortunately easy for fibers to escape from clothing, meaning they are likely passed into waterways’ drainage from household washing machines.
What can be done to prevent microplastic pollution?
“These pollutants are ubiquitous,” Isabel Goßmann, author of the Oldenburg paper, said. “We find them even in remote polar regions.”
In terms of removal, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate microplastics in our oceans and atmosphere. But we can take measures to prevent further microplastics from finding their way into the ecosystem.
Avoiding single-use plastics is key, so finding alternatives to plastic bottles, straws, and bags is one easy way to make a difference. Otherwise, appropriate disposal of plastic, including recycling, is crucial to keeping our environment and bodies freer from microplastic pollution.
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