Germany: Even in remote parts of the world, microplastic particles can be found in the marine environment. These tiny particles originate on land but are also re-emitted into the atmosphere by the sea, according to a study led by Dr Barbara Scholz-Böttcher of the University of Oldenburg. The researchers examined air samples collected from various locations along the Norwegian coast, all the way up to the Arctic region. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications. Isabel Goßmann, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oldenburg’s Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) and first author of the paper, said,
With our study, we present data on the mass load of different types of plastic in the marine atmosphere for the first time.
The research team collected the samples during an expedition with the Research Vessel Heincke in 2021. The northernmost destination was Bear Island, the most southerly island of the Svalbard archipelago which lies halfway between the mainland and the archipelago’s largest island, Spitsbergen. The team used two different devices to collect air samples. The devices actively pumped in air and were mounted on the bow of the research vessel at a height of twelve meters.
Different Types of Plastics Identified
The scientists analysed the air samples using pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. With this method they were able to identify and quantify the different types of plastics in the atmosphere through thermal degradation and selective analysis. They then performed model calculations and reconstructed the sources and distribution paths of the particles, each of which is just a few thousandths of a millimeter in size.
The analysis revealed the omnipresence of polyester particles. Polyethylene terephthalate particles, which presumably entered the atmosphere in the form of textile fibers, were detected in all samples. Other plastic types were also present, including polypropylene polycarbonate and polystyrene. Tire wear particles, the tiny debris abraded from tires during driving and especially braking, were identified as another major source of microplastics. The researchers measured concentrations of up to 37.5 nanograms (one nanogram = one-billionth of a gram) of microplastics per cubic meter of air. Ms Goßmann stressed,
These pollutants are ubiquitous. We find them even in remote polar regions.
Until now, little was known about microplastics pollution levels including tire wear particles in the marine atmosphere. Team leader Dr Scholz-Böttcher said,
There are only a handful of studies on the concentration of these pollutants in the air. Our model calculations indicate that the microplastics in the marine atmosphere come from direct sources on the land as well as from the sea.
The team posits that plastic particles floating near the sea surface enter the atmosphere via sea spray and bursting air bubbles produced during stormy weather, for example.
Ships – A Source of Microplastics
Microplastics find their way into seawater via rivers, but also through the atmosphere – particles are washed out of the atmosphere by rain, for example. Another potential source is ship traffic: in an earlier study, a team led by Dr Scholz-Böttcher demonstrated that in the open North Sea, the paint and coatings used on ships is the main source of microplastics. In the current study, chemicals such as polyurethanes and epoxy resins typically used in paints and coatings for ships were also found in the air samples.
In addition to researchers from the ICBM, scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven, the Technische Universität Berlin, the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) were also part of the research team.
(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 – theLGBTQ 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 currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) 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, fightmalnutrition, 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 scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.