Microplastic contamination was found in snow near the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. With the plastic debris discovered in 2018 at the deepest point on Earth, the Mariana Trench, it is now clear that the waste of humanity has polluted the entire planet.
The small plastic fibers were found a few hundred meters from the top of the 8,850-meter mountain, in a place known as a balcony. Microplastics were found in all snow samples collected from 1
The highest concentrations of microplastic are found around the base camp, where climbers and hikers spend the most time. The fibers most likely came from clothing, tents and ropes used by mountaineers, scientists said. Other recent discoveries of microplastic contamination in remote parts of the Swiss Alps and the French Pyrenees indicate that the particles can also be carried away by wind from afar.
“I was really surprised to find microplastics in every single snow sample I analyzed,” said Imogen Napper of the University of Plymouth, who is leading the new study. “Mount Everest is somewhere I have always considered it remote and pristine. The real eye-opener is to know that we are polluting near the top of the highest mountain. “
“With such widespread microplastics in our environment, it is time to focus on appropriate environmental solutions,” she said. “We must protect and care for our planet.”
Reducing, reusing and recycling larger items from plastic waste is important, Napper said, as they can break down into microplastics when disposed of in the environment. But many microplastics are separated from clothing made of synthetic fabrics, and she said a focus on better fabrics is needed, as well as the use of natural fibers such as cotton when possible.
Millions of tons of plastic are lost in the environment every year. It can contain toxic additives and carry harmful microbes and is known to harm wildlife, which confuses it with food.
People also consume microplastics through food and water and inhale them, although the health effects are not yet known.
There are long-standing concerns about the waste of Everest, which was climbed by at least 880 people in 2019. But the new study is the first to estimate microplastic pollution, which is less than 5 mm and therefore too small to be taken.
The study, published in the journal One Earth, analyzes samples collected by a National Geographic expedition in 2019. Scientists found an average of 30 microplastic particles per liter of water in snow samples and 119 particles per liter in the most contaminated sample. They also evaluated samples of water streams from eight locations, but only three had microplastics, perhaps because the streams were able to wash away the contamination.
In his previous work, Napper found that each cycle of a washing machine can release 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers, and that plastic bags that claim to be biodegradable are still intact after three years in the natural environment.