[Answered] Some recent studies have found Microplastics in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica. Bring out the factors behind and impacts of these findings.

Introduction: Explain Microplastics.
Body: Write some factor behind presence of microplastics in Antarctica. Also write impacts of microplastics in Antarctica.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean deteriorates and breaks down and ends up as Microplastics.  Microplastics are tiny plastic debris that is smaller than 5 mm in length. There are two types of microplastics. Primary microplastics are tiny particles that are designed for commercial use, in cosmetics and in fibres from synthetic textiles like nylon. Secondary microplastics are formed through the degradation of larger plastic items like bottles, fishing nets and plastic bags.

Factors behind presence of microplastics in Antarctica. :

  • Researchers argued that there is a possibility that the human presence in Antarctica created a microplastic ‘footprint’.
  • The most likely sources of the airborne microplastic are local research stations, due to the clothing worn by staff, broken fragments of plastic equipment and mismanaged waste.
  • Wayfinding flags (made of synthetic polyamide fabric) which identify safe routes for travel, might also release microplastic.

Impacts:

  • Threat to Antarctica’s distinctive ecosystem: Microplastics are not biodegradable and once they are found in the environment, they begin to accumulate. They can be toxic for plants and animals.
  • Adverse impact on food chain: Ingestion of microplastics by various life forms, from microorganisms to larger predators can disrupt their usual biological processes and negatively impact the entire Antarctic food chain.
  • Worsen the impact of climate change: Ice sheets and glaciers are already rapidly melting, and the microplastics deposited in ice and snow can accelerate the melting of the cryosphere.
  • Increase Landslides and Avalanches: Dark-coloured microplastics are better at absorbing sunlight and retain more heat. This can increase melting of glaciers leading to landslides and avalanches and causing glacial lakes to burst their banks.
  • When carried by the snow, rain and wind, they can also lead to the risk of possible inhalation of microplastics by humans and wildlife and further pollute land and water.

Finding microplastics in fresh Antarctic snow highlights the extent of plastic pollution into even the most remote regions of the world. This must be treated as a global issue and all nations and decision-making policies should take steps to solve this problem.

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