Microplastics have reached the clouds. Japanese researchers, in fact, found different types of polymers and rubber in the water of the clouds surrounding the Monte Fujithe highest mountain in Japan, and the Mount Oyama.
Plastic particles smaller than 5 mm they are called “microplastics”. These tiny plastic fragments are often found in industrial waste or form from the degradation of larger plastic waste. Research shows that large quantities of microplastics are ingested or inhaled by humans and animals and have been detected in various organs such as the lungs, heart, bloodthe placenta is feci.
In a new study led by Hiroshi Okochi, Professor at Waseda University, a group of Japanese researchers has explored the path of airborne microplastics (AMPs) as they circulate in the biosphere. #waseda #research #microplasticshttps://t.co/DWEbWctFZu
— Waseda University Waseda University (@waseda_univ) September 28, 2023
Ten million tons of these plastic fragments end up in the ocean and then in the atmosphere. This implies that microplastics may have become one essential component of clouds, contaminating almost everything we eat and drink. While most studies on microplastics have focused on aquatic ecosystems, few have examined their impact on cloud formation.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Chemical Lettersadds to a growing body of evidence showing that plastic pollution has infiltrated most of Earth’s ecosystems and even the human body.
The water of clouds it was collected on the tops of the two Japanese mountains, at an altitude between 1,300 and 3,776 meters. The summit of Mount Fuji is located in the free troposphere, while Mount Ōyama is located in the atmospheric boundary layer – both in the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The scientists then used advanced imaging techniques to determine whether and which microplastics were present.
The scholars found nine different types of polymers and a type of rubber in airborne microplastics. The clouds contained as many as 14 pieces of plastic per liter of water, ranging in size from about 7 to 95 micrometers, just over the average width of a human hair (80 micrometers).
Plastics are hydrophobic but become hydrophilic (i.e. water-loving) after prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, the authors explain.
The abundance of these polymers in some samples suggests that they may have acted as “condensation nuclei” of cloud ice and water.
Condensation nuclei are tiny particles on which water vapor in the atmosphere condenses, so they are essential for the formation of clouds.
“Overall, our results suggest that microplastics at high altitudes could influence cloud formation and, in turn, modify the climate,” the scientists write. “Microplastics in the free troposphere are transported and contribute to global pollution,” says the research’s lead author, Hiroshi Okochi of Waseda University.