The research shows that microplastic pollution is a universal phenomenon that is common everywhere, even in the most isolated regions of the world. Further research is needed to understand the effects of this pollution on human health and the environment
New research published in the journal Nature Communications Reveals that microplastic particles are carried in the marine air, even in the most isolated areas of the world. Dr. Barbara Schulz-Butcher from the Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment at the University of Oldenburg in Germany headed the research, in collaboration with German and Norwegian researchers.
The team collected air samples from various locations along the Norwegian coast, from the south to the Arctic region. They used two devices that actively collected air and were installed on board the research vessel Heincke. The samples were analyzed using the pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method, to identify and quantify the different types of plastic.
The analysis revealed a universal presence of polyester particles. PET particles, which probably originate from textile fibers, were detected in all samples. Other types of plastic such as polypropylene, polycarbonate and polystyrene were also found.
A significant part of the source of the microplastics are tire wear particles that are formed when driving and braking. The researchers measured a concentration of up to 37.5 nanograms of microplastic per cubic meter of air.
"These pollutants are common everywhere. We also find them in remote areas at the poles," emphasized Isabel Gusman, a doctoral student at the University of Oldenburg and the first author of the article.
Until now, there was only little knowledge about the levels of microplastic pollution and tire wear particles in marine air. The modeling calculations performed by the team indicate that the source of the particles is both from the land and from the ocean itself, when plastic particles floating in the sea enter the air during storms for example.
The research shows that microplastic pollution is a universal phenomenon that is common everywhere, even in the most isolated regions of the world. Further research is needed to understand the effects of this pollution on human health and the environment.
Here is a brief summary of what we know today about microplastics and plastics from tires:
- Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic with a microscopic size, below 5 mm. They are created from the breakdown of larger plastics.
- Main sources of microplastics are plastic products, synthetic fabrics, tires, paints and more. They reach the environment through washing, wind, etc.
- Microplastics have already accumulated in large quantities in oceans, lakes, rivers and soil. They cause harm to animals that ingest them.
- Plastic from tires is a type of microplastic that is created from car tire wear during driving and braking.
- Plastic from tires is a significant source of microplastic pollution in the air, soil and water.
- Current research shows that microplastics and plastic from tires are common everywhere, even in the polar regions.
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