Even in the Arctic, microscopic particles of plastic fall from the sky with snow, a study found.
Scientists say they are shocked by the sheer number of particles found: more than 1
This means that even there people are likely to breathe microplastics from the air – although the health implications remain unclear.
The region is often regarded as one of the last pristine environments in the world.
A German-Swiss team of researchers has published a paper in the journal Science Advances.
Scientists also find rubber particles and fibers in the snow.
How did the researchers conduct the study?
Far more pollutant particles have been found than expected in the laboratory of the German Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven.
19659007] Many were so small that it was difficult to determine where they came from.
It appears that most are made up of natural materials such as plant cellulose and animal fur. But there were also particles of plastic along with fragments of rubber tires, varnish, paint and probably synthetic fibers.
A leading scientist, Dr Melanie Bergman, told BBC News: "We were expecting to find some contamination, but to find that much microplastics was a real shock."
She said, "Obviously, most of the microplastics in the snow come from the air."
Microplastics are defined as those particles smaller than 5 mm in size.
Looking at their potential effects on humans, Dr. Bergman explained, "We do not know if plastics will be harmful to human health or not. But we need to take better care of how we treat our environment." environment. "
Scientists also analyzed snow from sites in Germany and Switzerland. Samples from some regions of Germany show higher concentrations than in the Arctic.
How Does Plastic Pollution Reach the Arctic?
Researchers believe that microplastics are blown away by winds and then – through mechanisms that are not fully understood – are transported over long distances through the atmosphere.
Then the particles are "
A study published in April by a British-French team showed that microplastics were falling from the sky over the French Pyrenees, another supposedly pristine area.
Previously, research the groups found plastic in the atmospheric outfall in Dongguang, China, Tehran in Iran and Paris, France.
There is also uncertainty about where the pollution came from.
Having so many lacquer particles in the Arctic was a puzzle.
Researchers suggest that some of the pollution may have come from ships landing on ice. But they also speculate that some may have come down from wind turbines.
Fiber fragments may be in people's clothing, although this is not currently possible to say.
Dr. Bergman explained: "We have to ask – do you need so many plastic packages? Do we need all the polymers in the paints we use? Can we invent differently designed car tires? These are important questions. "
Dr Eldbjørg Sofie Heimstad, from the Norwegian Aeronautical Research Institute, Kjeller, who did not participate in the last study, told me that part of the particulate contamination is local and some have come a long way.
She said: "We know that most of what we analyze there and measure is long-range pollution, coming from [Europe] from Asia, coming from all over the world.
" Some of these chemicals have properties, that pose a threat to the ecosystem, to live animals. "
What does this mean for the Arctic?
The results follow on the heels of our outstanding report last year that the highest concentrations of plastic particles in the ocean were found in Arctic sea ice.
Plastic waste is also carried hundreds or even thousands of kilometers to land on remote beaches of the Arctic.
This is depressing news for people who regard the far north as one of the last pristine environments on Earth.
At a dog training center near Tromsø in the Norwegian Arctic, one of Lilly's staff told us, "It makes me incredibly sad. We have plastic in the sea ice. We have plastic in the ocean and beaches. Now plastic in the snow.  "Here we see the beauty every day and see that it changes so much and is tainted – it hurts."
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