After melting, the snow leaves behind pollution in the form of micro- and nanoplastics. Scientists at McGill University have developed a method for detecting the smallest particles of plastic in snow, rain, and even soil.
In their work, the researchers used a new technique to analyze snow samples for the presence of both micro- and nano-sized particles of various plastics. McGill University’s method is more sensitive than any modern method of tracking plastic in the environment. This allows scientists to detect the most common soluble and insoluble plastics in snow, water, rain, and even soil samples after separation – down to the picogram (or one trillionth of a gram) level. It is based on the use of nanostructured mass spectrometry. Unlike other methods currently in use, the new method is suitable for the analysis of recycled products and is environmentally friendly.
“It’s important to be able to detect even tiny amounts of plastic in the environment,” said senior study author, female scientist Paris Aria of McGill’s Department of Chemistry and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. “While these plastics themselves may be harmless, they collect toxic organic matter and heavy metals from the environment. It damages human cells and organs ”.
“We hope this new method will be used by scientists in various fields to obtain key information about the amount of micro and nanoplastics in urban environments in order to better assess their impact on the ecosystem and human health.” – First author, Zi Wang, Ph.D.