Recently, researchers in Japan have confirmed the discovery of microplastics in clouds, likely affecting the climate in ways that aren’t yet fully understood.
In a study published in Environmental Chemistry Letters, scientists climbed Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama to collect water from the mists around their peaks. Then, they applied advanced imaging techniques to the samples to determine their physical and chemical properties.
The team identified 9 types of polymers and one type of rubber in the airborne microplastics ranging in size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometres. Each litre of cloud water contained between 6.7 to 13.9 pieces of plastic.
Furthermore, “hydrophilic” or water-loving polymers were abundant, suggesting the particles play a significant role in rapid cloud formation and, thus, climate systems.
“If the issue of ‘plastic air pollution’ is not addressed proactively, climate change and ecological risks may become a reality, causing irreversible and serious environmental damage in the future,” lead author Hiroshi Okochi of Waseda University warned in a statement.
He explained that when microplastics reach the upper atmosphere and are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, they degrade, contributing to greenhouse gasses.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on airborne microplastics in cloud water,” the authors wrote in their paper.
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