Microplastics also travel through the air, says new study

Microplastics were found in significant quantities at an altitude of 1,500 metres in the Pyrenees. [Photo: Shutterstock]

Microplastics are not only found in the world’s oceans but can also reach isolated areas through the air. EURACTIV’s partner le Journal de l’environnement reports.

Plastic fragments can be transported by wind, snow and rain, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience on 15 April

Scientists made their discovery in a Natura 2000 area located in the heart of the Pyrenees at an altitude of 1,500 metres and five kilometres from a village.

At the meteorological station of Bernadouze (Ariège), over 365 microplastic particles per square metre per day were recorded over a five month period during the winter of 2017-2018.

Outside of cities

“Microplastics are transported in the atmosphere and can settle in isolated high mountain regions, far from any major city or local pollution source. They are atmospheric pollutants,” the lead author of the study Deonie Allen, told AFP.

Allen works at the functional ecology laboratory of Toulouse and headed the study conducted by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in partnership with the universities of Toulouse, Orléans and Strathclyde (Scotland).

Death-knell for microplastics?

MEPs voted on Tuesday (10 July) to amend European Commission plans to cut plastic pollution and suggested a ban on microplastics in cosmetics and other products by 2020.

Impact TBC

These results, comparable to the rates found in large cities like Paris, show that microplastics travelled a lot, in some cases over 95 kilometres, according to Allen.

Already present in the oceans and soils, these tiny fragments come directly from our consumption of packaging, bags, textiles and single-use items.

“What impact can they have on the mountains? For now, we are only aware of the problem but not the extent of its impact,” admitted Allen.

The door is now open for more research on the issue.

[Edited by Sam Morgan]

MEPs vote to turn ‘plastic wastelands into fields of gold’

European lawmakers overwhelmingly backed an advisory report on the EU’s landmark plastics strategy on Thursday (13 September). It calls on the European Commission to ban certain types of micro-plastics by 2020.

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