By: Kaira Ocomen
Summary: Scientists have concluded that there are abundant levels of microplastic pollution found in snow as far away as from the Artic to the Alps. Scientists warn that contamination of the atmosphere demand a necessary search to the potential health risks to humans. Snow particles from the atmosphere and samples from ice floes on the ocean between Greenland and Svalbard have an average of microplastics of 1,760 per liter. In other European countries the average is 24,600 microplastic per liter. The main source of transportation is by wind, an important factor of contamination across the world. Researchers have concluded the effect of microplastic on human health, in an earlier study, that particles found were in cancerous human lung tissue. In a June study, the average person eats about 50,000 microplastics per year. How do we not notice the plastic? Plastic is broken down in every environment every year into small particles and fibers that are not biodegradable; we call this particle microplastics. They are found everywhere from the high mountains to the deep ocean and they can carry toxic chemicals and harmful microbes. Scientist Dr. Melanie Bergmann (from Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany) called for an urgent demand of research on the potential health risks to people. She found about 12,000 microplastic in the Artic sea. She also thinks that they travel from the ocean currents but mainly by wind. Scientists also found high concentrations of contamination in the snow, indicating contamination in the sky. Lastly, in a 1998 study, inhaled fibers found were present in cancerous human lungs and specimens. They concluded that these particles and fibers were contributing factors in the risk of lung cancer. The European Commission stated that these grounds are evidence that people need to exercise precaution and be concerned. Countries like China and France also conducted their own research and found their own air has microplastic contamination.
Why should we care? The problem of plastic can affect our health along with the health of animals. The effects of inhaling these contaminated airs can cause a potential risk of lung cancer from the fibers and particles.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting because I was not aware of plastics in the atmosphere problem. It was a great topic to learn from because we do not know what is happening all around the world because we are too focused on our lives. The article opened my eyes and gave me another point of perspective because we always talk about our own problems or problems with the climate, but that we do not know there are other dangerous elements that are present also. The article mentions information that people have been conducting and analyzing for over a decade now, and we are just being made self-aware to this now because the world is in trouble. They had information about samples from ice samples, so it is not just a surface aspect; it is an all-around problem that is effecting the ocean and the animals that consume the water or breathe in the air.
Science in Action.
Dr. Melanie Bergmann is a marine ecologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute.
Dr. Bergmann and a team of experts report in the Science Advances on snow samples that confirm that there are high concentrations of microplastic contamination in the regions of Bavaria, Bernem Artic, and Alps. She states in the her article that the majority of microplastics in the snow comes from the air. She conducted on snow samples from Bavaria -154,000 particles per liter - and the Artic contained up to 14,400 particles per liter. The types of plastic also varied on location; in the Artic they found paint, acrylates, and nitrile rubber which is the host of application. These applications come from different areas like ships, cars, surface of buildings, and offshore oil rigs.