Microplastics found in Antarctica
- Posted By
14th Jun, 2022
Scientists have found microplastics — plastic pieces much smaller than a grain of rice — in freshly fallen Antarctic snow for the first time.
- Researchers gathered samples of snow from 19 different sites in the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and discovered plastic particles in all of them.
- There were 13 different types of plastic found, with the most common being PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), commonly used to make soft drink bottles and clothing.
- The possible sources of microplastics were examined.
- An average of 29 microplastic particles per litre of melted snow, which is higher than marine concentrations reported previously from the surrounding Ross Sea and in Antarctic sea ice.
- Microplastics may have travelled thousands of kilometres through the air, however it is likely that the presence of humans in Antarctica has established a microplastic 'footprint'.
What are Microplastics?
- Microplastics are tiny bits of various types of plastic found in the environment.
- The name is used to differentiate them from “macroplastics” such as bottles and bags made of plastic.
- There is no universal agreement on the size of microplastics. It defines microplastic as less than 5mm in length.
- However, for the purposes of this study, since the authors were interested in measuring the quantities of plastic that can cross the membranes and diffuse into the body via the bloodstream.
- Hence they agreed on an upper limit on the size of the particles as 0.0007 millimetre.
Threats posed by Microplastics
- Microplastics have the potential to influence the climate by accelerating melting of ice.
- They limit growth, reproduction, and general biological functions in organisms, as well as humans.