All of our plastic waste means that there is microplastic in our oceans, and now new evidence suggests that microplastics are also present in the clouds.
Every year, over ten million tons of plastic end up in the Earth’s oceans. Plastic waste leads to the creation of microplastics. This microscopic debris comes from various synthetic materials in our everyday items, as reported by Newsweek.
Microplastics end up in the clouds
Microplastics contribute to climate change and threaten not only the health of the oceans and marine life but also our own health.
When plastic waste breaks down, microplastics are released into the environment and end up in the oceans, and according to a new study, also in the clouds.
Can lead to cancer
The new study, led by Hiroshi Okochi, a professor at Japan’s Waseda University, has investigated the path that airborne microplastics take.
It is known that microplastics cause a range of health problems; they can lead to cancer and damage our DNA. The results of the study now have researchers concerned that microplastics may contaminate everything we eat and drink.
When microplastics reach the clouds, they fall back to Earth with the rain. The plastic rain consists of millions of small microplastics raining down from the sky.
Rainwater from mountains
To study the amount of airborne microplastics at high altitudes, researchers collected rainwater from the top of Mount Oyama and from the southeastern hills of Mount Fuji.
The researchers found that airborne microplastics in the clouds primarily come from the ocean, and among the identified airborne microplastics, there were nine different types of polymers.
According to the study, microplastics can contaminate “nearly everything we eat and drink through ‘plastic rain'” when they become a “significant component of clouds,” as reported by Newsweek.
In June, a study was published showing that we inhale approximately 16.2 pieces of microplastics per hour, equivalent to a credit card per week, and that microplastics most often accumulate in the back of the throat and in the nasal passages.
Can affect the climate
Microplastics, known as AMPs, in the clouds can also affect the climate.
“Airborne microplastics are degraded much faster in the upper atmosphere than on the ground due to strong ultraviolet radiation, and this degradation releases greenhouse gases and contributes to global warming,” says Hiroshi Okochi to Newsweek.
He adds that the results of the study can be used to account for the effects of airborne microplastics in future global warming forecasts.