Plymouth: An extensive amount of microplastic particles are being trapped in riverbed sediments or dispersed through the air along significant river systems, according to a recent study. The study, which was carried out along the Ganges river in South Asia, discovered that, on average, 41 microplastic particles per square metre were settled from the atmosphere each day.
In addition, analysis by scientists found 57 particles per kilogram on average in sediment from the riverbed as well as one particle in every 20 litres of water.
The research, published in Science of the Total Environment, represents the first combined analysis of microplastics in water, sediment and air around a major river system.
It was conducted using samples collected by an international team of scientists as part of the National Geographic Society’s Sea to Source: Ganges expedition.
Lead author Dr Imogen Napper, a Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth and National Geographic Explorer, said,
We have known for some time that rivers are key pathways for the transfer of microplastics to marine environments. However, there has always been uncertainty about the sheer amounts being transported, and whether they represent long-term sinks. This study goes some way to unravelling that mystery, and revealing the true scale of microplastic contamination that our river systems can represent.
The research involved scientists from the University of Plymouth (UK); the Wildlife Institute of India (India); the University of Dhaka, WildTeam, and Isabella Foundation (Bangladesh); National Geographic Society, University of Georgia (USA); ZSL (Zoological Society of London), University of Exeter (UK); and Nantes Université (France).
Many of the same scientists were involved in a previous study, published in January 2021, which suggested the Ganges River and its tributaries could be responsible for up to 3 billion microplastic particles entering the Bay of Bengal every day.
In addition to highlighting the overall abundance of particles, for the new study scientists found fibres to be the most common type, representing up to 99 per cent of the microplastics discovered in some of the samples analysed.
Within this, rayon (synthetically altered cellulose) was the dominant polymer – representing up to 82% of the fibres found in some samples – ahead of acrylic and polyester, and blue was the most common colour.
The sediment samples often contained denser microplastic particles than those found in water and air, and higher population densities correlated with increased microplastic abundance for air and water samples.
Writing in the study, scientists say they believe clothing is likely to be the prominent source of microplastics to this particular river system, influenced by atmospheric deposition, wastewater, and direct inputs such as the handwashing of clothes in the Ganges.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.