It seems that plastic pollution goes beyond seeing piles of plastic containers littering the soil and affecting the fauna of our oceans, apparently it can also pollute the air, be transported by the wind and then fall with the rain or snow.
The microplastic is airborne and falls with the rain. Source: edited image, original from pixabay.com.
Every year thousands of tons of plastic waste are produced, although most of it ends up in landfills, a good part of it ends up polluting soil and water everywhere. And this waste, by the action of the sun and the wind, degrades and fragments into small particles known as microplastics. And these small particles can be transported by the wind and picked up by rain or snow.
And in a new study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, a group of researchers presented the results of a new analytical technique based on nanostructures made of zinc oxide, titanium oxide and cobalt coupled to mass spectrometry techniques, developed in order to determine in the order of picograms the amount of microplastics present in water and snow samples. Using this new technique, the scientists analyzed snow samples from fresh snowfall in Montreal, Canada, and found important information on the morphology and composition of micro- and nanoplastic particles in the snow, determining that the snow contamination is mainly due to soluble plastics, such as polyethylene glycols present in antifreeze, and fragments of insoluble polyethylene possibly carried by the wind.
The presence of soluble plastic and unstable polystyrene was detected in the snow. Source: pixabay.com.
In a previous study, published last year in the journal Science, a group of researchers reported finding plastic particles in different remote areas of the United States, this group of scientists collected samples in national parks and wilderness areas, and found plastic particles in 98% of the samples collected. The samples were taken in both dry and rainy periods, finding that larger particles were washed in by rain while smaller particles were found in dry periods, concluding that the larger particles may have been washed from nearby sites with the rain and the smaller particles were carried by the wind from more distant urban centers.
Scientists detected microplastics in remote wilderness areas brought by rain from urban centers. Fuente: Pixabay.com.
This situation is undoubtedly worrying. We already know the terrible effects that plastic particles have on aquatic fauna that mistake them for food, but confirming that microplastics can be present in the air is an even more frightening scenario, not only because of the fact that they can reach everywhere in this way, they could literally spread all over the world.
At one time we already had to deal with acid rain, caused by the large amount of exhaust gases with high concentrations of sulfur dioxide, which fortunately has been brought under control by controlling the concentration of sulfur compounds in fossil fuels and implementing catalytic converters in vehicles. But air pollution by microplastics is perhaps an even bigger problem, since the size of the particles makes it very difficult to remove them from the air or water, and because of their resistance, they do not decompose, only fragment into smaller pieces, something very dangerous since their presence in the air could mean that we are breathing them.
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