Microplastics have been found in clouds by Japanese researchers, where they are likely altering the climate in ways that are not fully understood.
Japanese scientists used sophisticated imaging techniques to analyze the physical and chemical properties of water collected from the mists that shroud Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama in a study published in the publication Environmental Chemistry Letters.
In the airborne microplastics, which which ranged from from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometres, the researchers discovered nine different forms of polymers and one type of rubber.
The plastics were found in 6.7 to 13.9 bits per litre (0.26 gallon) of cloud water tested.
“If the issue of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not tackled proactively, climate change and ecological hazards may become a reality, causing permanent and severe harm to the environment in the future,” Waseda University’s principal author, Hiroshi Okochi, warned in a statement on Wednesday.
Microplastics deteriorate when they reach the stratosphere and are exposed to UV radiation from sunshine, according to Okochi.
Microplastics, defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimetres in size that come from industrial effluent, clothing, synthetic car tires, personal care products, and other sources, have already been found inside fish, in Arctic sea ice, and in the snows of the Pyrenees hills between France and Spain.
However, the processes of their transfer to such diverse places remained unknown, with studies on airborne micro plastics transport in particular lacking.
“To the best of our understanding, this is the first study to examine microplastics that travel through the air in cloud water,” the paper’s authors stated.
According to a statement issued by Waseda University on Wednesday, “microplastics are inhaled or eaten by humans and animals alike, and have been detected in various organs such as the lung, heart, blood, placenta, and feces.”
“Ten million tons of these plastic fragments end up in the ocean, where they are released as ocean spray and find their way into the atmosphere.” This suggests that microplastics have become a key component of clouds, polluting practically everything we eat and drink through ‘plastic rains,'” the university said in releasing the new research findings.
Microplastics have been connected to a variety of consequences on heart and lung health, as well as malignancies, in addition to significant environmental harm.