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‘It’s incredibly sad’: Researchers discover microplastics in fresh Antarctic snow

By Melissa Lopez-Martinez

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — For the first time, the presence of microplastics has been confirmed in freshly fallen Antarctic snow. Researchers at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury found microplastics in all 19 samples collected in Antarctica’s Ross Island region.

The study, published Tuesday in the scientific journal The Cryosphere, found 13 different types of plastics during a fresh snowfall. The most common microplastic found was Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make clothes or package food and soft drinks. On average, 29 microplastic particles were found per litre of snow.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that can reach up to 5 millimetres in size. Despite their size, these pollutants can be environmentally damaging depending on the type of plastic and chemicals it contains.

Researchers were shocked, not only by the quantity of microplastics found, but by the remote locations of their discovery, including Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.

“It’s incredibly sad but finding microplastics in fresh Antarctic snow highlights the extent of plastic pollution into even the most remote regions of the world,” Alex Aves PhD student at the university said in a media release.

According to the study, airborne microplastics likely reached the continent by travelling distances of up to 6,000km. However, it is likely that human activity contributed to the pollution.

New Zealand’s environmental adviser Natasha Gardiner said in a press release said this study will help push for policy change to reduce plastic pollution.

We can use this information to reduce plastic pollution at its source and inform our broader environmental management practices,” she said.

The study was submitted to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting for further inspection into the plastics environmental impact.

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Sonja Puzic

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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