Researchers from the University of Utah have studied rainfall and filters in national parks for microplastics and found that in protected areas, up to 1,000 tons of microplastics fall together with rain per year. Information about the study was published in the journal Science.
In 2017, 348 million tons of plastic were produced in the world. World production shows no signs of suspension: in the United States, the production of plastic waste per capita is 340 grams per day. Plastics have entered our daily lives because of their convenience, but these same properties lead to progressive environmental degradation.
Microplastic gets into sewage, rivers, and later into the oceans. And as the team at the University of Utah Associate Professor Janice Brahny calculated, it builds up in the atmosphere. Brahni and her team collected data on the presence of microplastics and other particulate matter in national parks and other protected areas for 14 months. According to the results of the study, up to 1000 tons of small pieces of plastic fall out along with rain in protected areas per year.
We were shocked at the rate of increase in the amount of microplastics in precipitation and tried to understand where our calculations went wrong. We used data from 32 devices scanning microplastic particles and found that approximately 4% of atmospheric precipitation is synthetic polymers.
Janice Brahni, Associate Professor, University of Utah
The ubiquitous distribution of microplastics in the atmosphere has unknown consequences for our body, but the relatively small size of microplastic particles can accumulate in the lung tissue. In addition, large amounts of plastic debris in the wild and national parks can potentially affect these ecosystems.