Scientists alarmed after finding microplastics in Arctic ice cores

Scientists in the Arctic made a startling discovery when they actually found microplastics in snow and ice core samples, meaning that there truly is no place in this world that has not been contaminated by the plastics industry.

Most plastics are unrecyclable and end up in landfills or in the ocean, where they break down slowly into tiny pieces.

We already know that the ocean carries plastic trash all over the globe. In fact, there’s no place among the world’s oceans that have not been contaminated by plastic. It’s even in the food chain and inside our own bodies. Wildlife is dying as a result, and human health is likely negatively impacted.

After all, plastic is made from petroleum and those chemicals are not good for us.

But now scientists have found that plastics are not only being carried everywhere by the ocean, but also to the most remote and pristine environments by the atmosphere.

During an expedition to collect Arctic ice core samples to find out just how pervasive microplastics are in our world, the researchers were absolutely stunned by the results.

“We thought we would need quite a bit of ice to find the plastics,” chief scientist Brice Loose said in a statement. “So we started with an entire core of ice in order to concentrate it down to see how much plastic it contained. As it turned out, there was so much plastic that you could look at it with your naked eye and see all of the beads, fibers and filaments just sitting there in the bottom of the containers.”

So many plastic particles, in fact, that they found 10,000 of them per liter, and it is apparently falling from the sky. They also found clothing fibers and even varnish, paint and pieces of rubber tires.

“We expected to find some contamination but to find this many microplastics was a real shock,” Dr. Melanie Bergmann told BBC News. “It’s readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air. We have to ask – do we need so much plastic packaging? Do we need all the polymers in the paints we use? Can we come up with differently designed car tires? These are important issues.”

Indeed, we really don’t need to rely so much on plastic. Grocery stores in the United States such as Trader Joe’s recently proved that by cutting their use of plastic by 1 million pounds, and they are still reducing how much they use. Grocery stores in the United Kingdom are doing the same thing and manufacturers such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi are working to go plastic-free.

Still, that progress is not enough to make the researchers feel better about what they found.

“It felt a little bit like a punch in the gut,” University of Rhode Island graduate student Jacob Strock said of the study results.

Even the locals are saddened to discover that they are breathing in plastic particles in their Arctic home.

“It makes me incredibly sad,” a local named Lilli said. “We’ve got plastics in the sea-ice. We’ve got plastics in the ocean and on the beaches. Now plastic in snow. Up here we see the beauty of it every day, and to see that it’s changing so much and being tainted— it hurts.”

Dr. Eldbjørg Sofie Heimstad, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, said that the study demonstrated the need to do more to reduce our plastic production and usage because plastics should not be found in these remote areas.

“We know that most of what we are analyzing up there and measuring are long-range transported pollution…coming from all over the world,” she said. “Some of these chemicals have properties that are a threat to the ecosystem, for living animals.”

This is a crisis that humanity must fight together or we will one day be buried in plastic.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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