‘Plastic rainfall’ risks contaminating everything we eat and drink
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Scientists have spoken out in fear of 'irreversible and serious environmental damage' after finding microplastics in clouds.
A group of researchers from Waseda University in Japan, conducted an investigation into the path of airborne microplastics (AMPs) - microplastics being plastic particles less than five millimetres in size.
While we know plastic waste on land ends up in the ocean as microplastics, the study team looked at whether microplastics also then end up in clouds, which in turn, means they can end up in rain and subsequently our food and water.
The study saw the group collect cloud water from the summit of Mount Fuji.
The water was then analysed, the team looking at the physical and chemical properties to ascertain whether or not there were any airborne microplastics (AMP) present.
And sadly, there were more than just a few - the study discovering there were nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber in the airborne microplastic particles. And researchers believe have come from the ocean.
This result means microplastics 'may have become an essential component of clouds' and the team fears this could mean microplastics are contaminating 'nearly everything we eat and drink via 'plastic rainfall''.
Waseda's press release continues: "Accumulation of AMPs in the atmosphere, especially in the polar regions, could lead to significant changes in the ecological balance of the planet, leading to severe loss of biodiversity."
Lead author on the studey, Waseda Professor Hiroshi Okochi, adds: "Airborne microplastics] are degraded much faster in the upper atmosphere than on the ground due to strong ultraviolet radiation, and this degradation releases greenhouse gases and contributes to global warming.
"As a result, the findings of this study can be used to account for the effects of [microplastics] in future global warming projections."
Dr Okochi resolves: "Microplastics in the free troposphere are transported and contribute to global pollution. If the issue of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not addressed proactively, climate change and ecological risks may become a reality, causing irreversible and serious environmental damage in the future."
The results of the study are published in Springer Link's Environmental Chemistry Letters, the article titled Airborne hydrophilis microplastics in cloud water at high altitudes and their role in cloud formation.