Governments, scientists, nonprofit organizations and environmentalists have long been trying to end plastic pollution, which mainly harms oceans and marine life. But the problem has already reached lands, potentially even remote areas, since plastics now are part of the rain.
Researchers discovered traces of microplastics in recent rainfalls. The team said 90 percent of samples collected from the rain, snow and fog just in central region of Colorado contained tiny plastics.
The samples came from urban and remote sites, including Denver, Boulder and Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park. Researchers said it has been literally raining plastic in cities and nature-saturated areas.
Exposure or ingestion of microplastics may negatively affect the body. It could disrupt the gut microbiome, damage lungs and liver and increase the risk for brain damage, according to DrAxe.com.
“Small airborne particles are known to lodge deep in the lungs where they can cause various diseases, including cancer,” according to a separate study in 2018. “Factory workers who handle nylon and polyester have shown evidence of lung irritation and reduced capacity (although not cancer), but they are exposed to much higher levels than the average person.”
More Facts About Plastic Pollution
- Materials, like cotton, polyester, acrylic and nylon, produce microfibers, which act as a main source of microplastic pollution.
- All fabrics can release microfibers and the ocean already contains 1.4 million trillion microfibers.
- Estimates show up to 10 species of marine animals ingested microplastics
- Microfibers can stay in seafood and be consumed by humans.
- Microfibers may also be present in municipal wastewater treatment systems, bottled water, tap water, beer and crops.
“I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye,” Gregory Wetherbee, a research chemist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said. “It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.”
The microplastics in the environment potentially came from trash, which slowly breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. The tiny materials may also come from fibers released every time people wash clothes, according to Sherri Mason, a microplastics researcher and sustainability coordinator at Penn State Behrend.