Microplastics circulating in the atmosphere are causing 'plastification' of the world: Study

The amount of microplastic polluting the atmosphere is alarming, as per the study, and circulating everywhere including the oceans.

Researchers at Cornell University and Utah State University have found that the air may be a medium using which microplastics circulate the globe. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study states that microplastics may be suspended in the air and have patterns of distribution similar to biogeochemical cycles like water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur cycles, which are vital to living organisms. One of the study researchers said that the movement of microplastics around the world may have resulted in the 'plastification' of our planet.

Mismanaged waste that is dumped into the sea and on land gets broken down over time, making it easier for circulation. A microplastic transport model was prepared by a postdoctoral fellow Marje Prank and engineering Professor Natalie Mahowald at Cornell. As per a news story shared on the official Cornell University website, Natalie said that they did the modelling to find out the sources of the plastic.

Microplastic representational image. Credit: Flickr

Microplastic representational image. Credit: Flickr

Speaking about their findings, Prank said that the amount of microplastic present in the atmosphere is alarming, accumulating in the oceans, circulating everywhere including oceans.

Microplastics data was collected for the study from the Western US between December 2017 and January 2019. As much as 84 percent of the microplastic particles came from cars and dust produced from degraded or used plastic. Sea spray, aerosol particles that are formed when ocean water hits solid surfaces, was also linked with some 11 percent of microplastic pollution, and another 5 percent is thought to come from agricultural soil dust.

Lead author of this study, Dr Janice Brahney, assistant professor of natural resources at the Utah State University, said that they have found legacy plastic pollution wherever they have looked. She added that the microplastic sources they studied, while collected this year, were likely dumped into the environment several decades ago.

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