Researchers Find Microplastics and Chemicals in Antarctica

At the beginning of the year, researchers from Greenpeace set out to Antarctica, the supposed last place untouched by pollutants. They collected samples of the snow and water to test for microplastics and persistent, hazardous chemicals. They, of course, found pollutants in both the snow and water samples. We now know how much more serious our plastic pollution problem is and now must save the penguins and other wildlife there from harm.

Where Did They Collect the Samples?

The researchers examined nine snow samples and six water samples for per- and polyfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS). They examined eight seawater samples for microplastics. Greenpeace gathered these samples from the part of Antarctica that is south of South America, including Joinville Island, Lecointe Island, King George Island, Greenwich Island, and other places. The first two are remote areas away from potential pollution sources, whereas the latter two are commonly frequented by tourists and local scientists.

How Bad Is It in Antarctica?

After analyzing the samples, they found microplastics at a frequency between 0.8 and 5.6 fibers per liter. Some of the fibers were polyester, some polypropylene, and some other kinds of plastic as well. We know how dangerous plastic can be in the water and that it takes hundreds of years to decompose. This poses a threat to Antarctica’s local wildlife.

Greenpeace also found PFAS, which are commonly used in industrial processed and by consumers, in the samples. Researchers suggest that they came to Antarctica by both atmospheric and oceanic transportation. They found the chemicals in both the highly traveled and pristine locations, meaning it had not come to the area by local means. Researchers have also found PFAS in the livers of polar bears in the Arctic and breast milk. Researchers have shown that the chemicals cause reproductive problems, tumor growth, and disrupted hormone systems. PFAS also gather together over time and do not break down. This has made some call out for substitutes for these harmful chemicals.

What Are the Greenpeace Researchers Doing to Combat It?

The scientists behind the study want to set up a sanctuary in Antarctica that encompasses both land and ocean. It would be about 695,000 square miles of land where we can protect whales, penguins, and other life. Officials will review the proposed action later this year.

Frida Bengtssen, from Greenpeace’s Protect the Antarctic campaign, gave the following statement. “We need action at the source, to stop these pollutants ending up in the Antarctic in the first place, and we need an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary to give space for penguins, whales and the entire ecosystem to recover from the pressures they’re facing.”

What Can We Do?

Antarctica and its wildlife are already under strain due to warmer temperatures and overfishing, leaving many wondering how we can combat this rapid decline. We know that what we are doing is making matters worse. The best thing we as individuals can do is make changes to our daily lifestyles to protect the environment. We should switch to and invest in renewable energy, reduce plastic consumption, and cut back the amount of pollution we create. We can all do this and spread the information to each other. By doing so, we will see a decline in pollutants like microplastics and PFAS.

Image Source: Pixabay

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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