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Japanese Scientists Reveal Microplastics are Present in Clouds

Microplastics Found in Clouds Impacting Climate, Japanese Study Reveals

Japanese scientists have discovered the presence of microplastics in clouds, shedding light on a potentially impactful yet poorly understood aspect of climate change.

Collecting Cloud Water

In a study published in the journal Environmental Chemistry Letters, Japanese researchers embarked on an ambitious mission to collect water from the mists surrounding Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama. Their objective was to determine the physical and chemical properties of these airborne microplastics.

The Microplastic Findings

The team’s analysis revealed the presence of nine different types of polymers and one type of rubber in the airborne microplastics, which varied in size from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometers. Shockingly, each liter (0.26 gallons) of cloud water tested contained between 6.7 to 13.9 pieces of microplastics.

Implications for Climate and Ecology

Lead author Hiroshi Okochi of Waseda University emphasized the significance of their findings. He warned that if the issue of “plastic air pollution” isn’t addressed proactively, it could contribute to climate change and pose ecological risks, potentially leading to irreversible environmental damage in the future.

Microplastics’ Role in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Okochi explained that when microplastics reach the upper atmosphere and are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, they degrade, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Widespread Presence of Microplastics

Microplastics, defined as plastic particles under 5 millimeters, have been found in various environments, including inside fish, in Arctic sea ice, and within the snows of the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. However, the mechanisms of their transport to such diverse locations had remained unclear, with limited research on airborne microplastic transport.

Human and Environmental Health Concerns

The study also highlighted concerns about the impact of microplastics on human and animal health. Microplastics have been detected in multiple organs, such as the lungs, heart, blood, placenta, and feces of both humans and animals.

An Essential Component of Clouds

Waseda University stated that microplastics, released into the ocean via ocean spray, ultimately find their way into the atmosphere. This suggests that microplastics may have become an essential component of clouds, potentially contaminating the food and water we consume through what the university aptly terms “plastic rainfall.”

Emerging evidence has linked microplastics to a range of health effects, including impacts on heart and lung health, cancer risks, and widespread environmental harm. The findings underscore the urgent need for comprehensive research and proactive measures to address the pervasive issue of microplastic pollution and its potential consequences on our environment and well-being.

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