Micro Plastics Discovered In Antarctic Snow For the First Time


While most people think of Antarctica as a relatively untouched region, a new study has revealed the presence of plastic debris in the snow. This is the first time that microplastics have been found in the region.

The first evidence of microplastics in the Antarctic was reported in a scientific journal, which highlighted a serious threat to the region's environment. This issue has been linked to various negative effects on the environment, including the reduction of reproductive and growth rates, as well as the effects of microplastics on human health. On a global scale, the presence of these particles could contribute to climate change by disrupting the flow of water and increasing the melting of ice.

In 2019, Alex Aves, a Ph.D. student at the University of Canterbury, collected snow samples from Antarctica as part of his study for Gateway Antarctica's Certificate in Antarctic Studies. At the time, there were only a few studies on the issue. It was not clear how widespread the problem was, and the presence of these particles in the air was unknown.

When Aves went to Antarctica in 2019, Dr. Laura Revell, a lecturer in environmental physics, said that she was expecting to find no microplastics in the region. She also suggested that he collect snow samples near McMurdo Station and Scott Base to study the issue further.

Upon returning to the lab, Aves was surprised to find that the samples from the remote sites had also been contaminated with plastic particles. The presence of these particles in the Antarctic air and the sea was regarded as a major discovery.

He then used a chemical analysis technique to identify the types of plastic particles in the samples. He also studied the plastic particles under a microscope to get a better understanding of their shape and size.

The paper revealed that the average concentration of microplastics in the snow samples was 29 particles per liter, which is higher than the marine concentrations detected in the area. They were also found near the scientific facilities of McMurdo Station, Scott Base, and Ross Island. There were also 13 different types of plastic particles in the samples, with the most common being PET, which is used to make soft drinks and clothing.

The findings of the study allowed the researchers to make sound suggestions regarding the protection of Antarctica's environment. It also helped them understand the source of plastic pollution and where it's coming from. This information can be used to implement effective environmental management practices.

What are microplastics?

According to the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the European Chemicals Agency, microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that can be found in the environment that are less than 5mm in length. They can enter the ecosystems through various sources, such as food packaging and cosmetics.

Micro and Macro plastics on a beach

The term macroplastics refers to the type of plastic that can be differentiated from larger plastic waste, such as bottles. There are two types of microplastics: primary and secondary. The former refers to the smallest plastic particles or fragments that can be found in the environment before they can be fully absorbed.

These include microfibers from various types of products, such as clothing and plastic pellets. Secondary microplastics are formed when large plastic products, such as bottles, are broken down through natural processes. Some of these include fishing nets, plastic bags, and tea bags.

Both primary and secondary microplastics are known to remain in the environment at high levels. They can cause water pollution in marine and aquatic ecosystems. About 35% of ocean microplastics are found in clothing and textiles. This is mainly due to the degradation of these products during the washing process.

Due to the slow degradation of plastic products, microplastics can accumulate in the tissues and bodies of various organisms. They can also bioaccumulate and affect the food chain. The toxic chemicals from both ocean and runoff can also help them move up the food chain.

In terrestrial ecosystems, studies have shown that microplastics can reduce the viability of soil organisms. Although the exact movement and cycle of these particles in the environment are not fully understood, it is believed that they can affect various aspects of the ecosystem. In 2020, a survey in China revealed that the presence of plastic particles in the ocean's deep layer sediments was much higher than previously believed.

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About the Author: John Carter

John Carter has been a content and 'ghostwriter' for many popular online publications over the years. John is now our chief editor at NewsGrab.
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