Environment

Japanese Scientists Find Microplastics in Clouds for the First Time

Climbers go up Mount Fuji, in Fujiyoshida city, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan, Thursday, July 4, 2013. Japan’s most iconic landmark, Mount Fuji, the 3,776-meter-tall mountain was selected as a World Heritage site in June.

Mary ManleyIn the 1967 film “The Graduate,” the character Mr. McQuire commented that there was a “great future in plastics.” However, its likely he probably didn’t mean the kind of future facing humanity at present. Scientists in Japan have discovered that microplastics are now present in clouds, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Chemistry Letters. The scientists climbed the summits of Mount Oyama and Mount Fuji, collecting water from mists around the mountain peaks that measured from 1,300 to 3,776 meters.Using advanced imaging techniques, the team found at least nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber in their samples. The plastics ranged in size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometers and in a concentration range of 6.7 to 13.9 pieces per liter.The discovered microplastics included: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, epoxy resin, polyamide 6, ethylene-propylene copolymer or polyethylene polypropylene alloy, and polyurethane.But this isn’t the first time microplastics have been discovered in an entity where they don’t belong.

“Research shows that large amounts of microplastics are ingested or inhaled by humans and animals alike and have been detected in multiple organs such as lung, heart, blood, placenta, and feces. Ten million tons of these plastic bits end up in the ocean, released with the ocean spray, and find their way into the atmosphere,” the release states.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on airborne microplastics in cloud water,” the authors wrote in their paper.Beyond Politics’Climate-Friendly’ Microplastics Harm Wildlife Just As Much As Ordinary Variety, Study Says7 June, 06:51 GMTThis implies, the researchers add, that microplastics have found their way into clouds and are creating a “plastic rainfall” that will contaminate nearly everything we eat and drink. The accumulation of airborne microplastics (AMPs) in the atmosphere could also cause adverse effects on biodiversity. Continued research has also linked microplastics to cancers, as well as negative effects on heart and lung health.“AMPs are degraded much faster in the upper atmosphere than on the ground due to strong ultraviolet radiation, and this degradation releases greenhouse gasses and contributes to global warming. As a result, the findings of this study can be used to account for the effects of AMPs in future global warming projections,” writes Hiroshi Okochi from Waseda University, the lead author of the study.“If the issue of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not addressed proactively, climate change and ecological risks may become a reality, causing irreversible and serious environmental damage in the future,” Okochi warned in a statement on Wednesday.

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