Scientists collect snow samples in the Arctic. Alfred Wegener Institute
When you think of the Arctic, you imagine an icy land of pure white snow. Others imagine it as the last really clean place left on Earth. We have polluted the deepest oceans with plastic trash, and now, CNN says, “It’s the Arctic’s turn.”
German scientists have recently found microplastics in Arctic snow, the Associated Press reported. Microplastics are pieces of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters. Sadly, the scientists found 1,800 pieces of microplastic per liter of snow.
How is plastic pollution reaching the Arctic? According to scientists, “It’s readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air.” They fall off of plastic objects and are moved by the wind, just like dust. They mix with ice in the air and fall to the ground as snow. Finding these plastics in Arctic snow means that we may breathe them in. An even higher amount of microplastic was found in the snow around cities.
The high concentrations found in snow samples suggest microplastics, which contain rubber or chemicals used in synthetic fabrics, may cause significant air pollution.
Are they bad for us? Scientists cannot answer this question for now, according to the World Health Organization. We do know that our bodies cannot take in “large” pieces of microplastics. However, if the plastics are small enough, they can find ways into our bodies and stay there for a long time, which can be bad for our health. What’s more, earlier studies have shown that microplastics may contribute to lung cancer risk, heightening the need to further assess the risks of taking them in, the study said.
Microplastics have also been found in rivers and oceans around the world. Previous research has found that they flow over long distances and into our oceans, damaging ecosystems along the way. They start in our wastewater, when we wash clothes with plastic fibers. The wastewater then flows into rivers and out to sea, where they are eaten by sea animals. If people then eat these animals, it means that we’re eating the plastic as well.