Microplastics Are Blowing In the Wind

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American:
Scientists have detected tiny pieces of plastic falling out of the
air like artificial dust. A first-of-its-kind study finds these
particles have blown in on the wind from at least 100 kilometers
away and likely much farther. This is a clear indication that
atmospheric transport is yet another way plastic pollution is being
distributed around the planet, even to remote areas. “And it
suggests that this is a far bigger problem than we have currently
thought about,” says study co-author Deonie Allen, of the Ecole
Nationale Superieure Agronomique de Toulouse (ENSAT). The study,
published Monday in Nature Geoscience, is one of only a handful
that have attempted to measure how much plastic is falling from the
atmosphere. It marks the first wave in what is likely to be a flood
of such studies in the coming years, in an effort to fill in the
picture of how microplastics move around the environment and how
humans might be exposed to them. Allen and her colleagues knew
microplastics had been found in rivers and sediments in the French
Pyrenees, but no one had determined the sources. The bulk could not
have come from local sources because of the small human population
and limited industrial activity, so Allen was struck by a key
question: “Why haven’t we looked up?” That is what she and her
colleagues did, taking advantage of atmospheric measuring equipment
already in place in the Pyrenees and sampling over five months.
They found plastic fibers, films and shards, all in a range of
sizes. Most of the polymers that turned up in the samples were
polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene, which are all common
in single-use plastic products such as bags and foam food
containers. The study used computer models of atmospheric currents
to attempt to backtrace the air that brought the microplastics in
the Pyrenees, which is considered a pristine environment. It was
clear that the relatively small towns and villages nearby “were
unlikely to account for all of the plastic they detected, which
suggests the ultimate sources are more distant,” reports Scientific
American.


Read more of this story
at Slashdot.

Source: *FS – All – Science News 2 Net
Microplastics Are Blowing In the Wind