Microplastics found in fresh Antarctic snow for first time

What is the News?

Scientists have found Microplastics — plastic pieces smaller than a grain of rice — in freshly fallen Antarctic snow for the first time.

What did the Scientists find in Antarctica?

Researchers from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand collected samples from 19 sites in Antarctica and each contained tiny plastic fragments.

They identified 13 different types of plastics and the most common was polyethylene terephthalate(PET) mostly used in soft-drink bottles and clothing. This was found in 79% of the samples.

Where did Microplastics come from in Antarctica?

Microplastics may have travelled thousands of kilometres through the air, however, it is likely that the presence of humans in Antarctica has established a microplastic ‘footprint’.

What is the impact of these findings?

Harmful Species can enter Antarctica: Microplastics can have harmful substances stuck onto their surfaces such as heavy metals, and algae. So they can provide a way in which harmful species can make it into some remote and sensitive areas that otherwise wouldn’t get there.

Increase Impact of Global Warming: Microplastics may also be increasing the impact of global warming. Snowfields, ice caps and glaciers around the world are already melting fast and scientists say dark-coloured microplastics deposited at these locations can make things worse by absorbing sunlight and enhancing local heating.

Increase Landslides and Avalanches: Fast-melting glaciers on mountain ranges in different parts of the world are increasingly becoming hazards, leading to landslides and avalanches and causing glacial lakes to burst their banks.

Threat to Water Supply: The rapid thinning and retreat of glaciers also poses a threat to water supplies and agriculture in mountain regions around the world.

Source: The post is based on the article “Microplastics found in fresh Antarctic snow for first time” published in The Hindu on 11th June 2022.

Print Friendly and PDF