Plastic damage is present even in the air

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Last reviewed: 17.10.2021

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02 August 2019, 09:00

Environmental scientists voiced the unpleasant news: plastic microparticles can spread in the air for hundreds of kilometers.

The fact that plastic massively clogs the ocean has long been known. Environmentalists have been trying to deal with this problem for many years, but so far without much success, because plastic particles are present even at depths. According to forecasts, soon there will be more plastic in the water than marine inhabitants. The earth's surface is no less clogged - to make sure of this, just look around. But as it turned out, plastic particles are also present in the air we breathe.

Specialists representing the French National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Orleans, and several other French and British science centers, used special equipment to collect everything that was brought by the winds to a meteorological station in the Pyrenees mountains. Tests were conducted every month, from November 2017 until March 2018 inclusive. According to average data, about 365 microparticles of plastic per day were found on one square meter - a similar amount can be determined on the streets of Paris or other large cities. However, there was a difference, and it consisted in the size and composition of microparticles.

Previous studies have already shown that in the air of large settlements, a plastic particle looks like the smallest polyethylene terephthalate or polypropylene fiber with a length of more than 100 micrometers: the origin of such fibers can be explained by the presence of a large number of textile products and components on the streets. As for those microparticles that were found in the Pyrenees mountains, they had a length of no more than 25 micrometers, and their structure was polystyrene or polyethylene: therefore, they were “torn” from any plastic container or package. So far, scientists have not been able to determine the exact source of plastic particles. But the experts received all the necessary information about the direction and intensity of the wind flow, which was recorded during the study. This allowed ecologists to draw the appropriate conclusions: it turns out that the microparticles traveled a distance of at least 95 kilometers before they hit the meteorological station. Scientists were surprised, because there were no settlements and cities at this distance from the weather station. Therefore, it was concluded that the plastic most likely covered a much greater distance than originally thought.

Thus, the pollution of our planet goes to the next dangerous level, because plastic is already present even where it cannot and should not appear. Now, scientists have to evaluate the harm of such microparticles to animals and humans, as well as the effect of their presence in the air on global warming processes.

An article on this material was published in Nature Geoscience. Link to the news:www.sciencenews.org/article/tiny-microplastics-travel-far-wind

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