Microplastics are everywhere — in the ground, in the water, and now, according to new research, in the sky.
What is happening?
According to a new study published in Environmental Chemistry Letters, microplastics have been discovered in the clouds that cover Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama.
The Japanese scientists behind the study climbed those two mountains and took samples from the cloud mist that surrounds the peaks. The samples revealed nine different types of polymers (i.e., plastics) and one type of rubber.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on airborne microplastics in cloud water,” the scientists wrote, as reported by Aljazeera.
Why are microplastics in clouds concerning?
Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic that have now permeated every part of our planet. As plastic is not a naturally occurring substance (it’s made of oil), it never truly breaks down. Not only are these tiny bits of microplastic nearly impossible to clean up or remove, but scientists are still uncertain how hazardous they are to the health of humans and animals.
The scientists who found the microplastics in the clouds raised concerns that at the upper reaches of the atmosphere, the microplastics would be exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, degrade, and contribute to the overheating of our planet.
“Ten million tons of these plastic bits end up in the ocean, released with the ocean spray, and find their way into the atmosphere. This implies that microplastics may have become an essential component of clouds, contaminating nearly everything we eat and drink via ‘plastic rainfall,’” the scientists further wrote.
What is being done about it?
While it is going to be nearly impossible to remove the microplastics that have already permeated all of the water on Earth, to stop even more of it from appearing, it is vital that we limit our plastic production and usage.
Some efforts are being undertaken to do just that. Massachusetts just became the first state in the United States to ban state agencies from buying single-use plastics. And scientists are working on ways to filter microplastics out of drinking water.
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