Scientists find microplastics in clouds

Researchers in Japan have confirmed that they have found microplastics in the clouds, and their presence could change the climate in ways that are not yet well understood. About the study published in the journal Environmental Chemistry Lettersscientists went to Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama to collect water from the clouds surrounding their peaks. “To our knowledge, this is the first time that suspended microplastics have been confirmed in cloud water,” the scientists wrote in their study.

“Serious and irreversible damage to the environment in the future”

Using advanced imaging techniques, the researchers identified nine different types of polymers and one of rubber in airborne microplastics ranging from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometers. Hydrophilic polymers, that is, water-loving or attractive, were found in abundance, suggesting a possible role in cloud formation and thus climate. “If the problem of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not actively addressed, climate change and ecological risks may become a reality, causing serious and irreversible damage to the environment in the future.”Hiroshi Okochi, the study’s lead author, said in a statement Wednesday.

When microplastics reach the upper atmosphere and are exposed to ultraviolet light from the Sun, they break down, releasing greenhouse gases and contributing to climate change, explained Hiroshi Okochi. Microplastics – defined as particles smaller than 5 millimeters – come from industrial waste, textiles, car tires or personal care products.

What are the effects of microplastics?

These tiny fragments have been found in the ice of the Arctic ice, in the snow of the Pyrenees or in living organisms in the four corners of the planet. But the way in which they are transported is still relatively unknown, and there is little research on their transport in the air. Data also remain incomplete on the health effects of exposure to microplastics, but research is beginning to point to links to certain diseases as well as environmental impacts.

Darell Goodwin

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