Climate Change

A Health Threat - Japanese Researchers Find Microplastics in Clouds and Snow

Main image to the post A Health Threat - Japanese Researchers Find Microplastics in Clouds and Snow

A Growing Concern

Microplastics, tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in length, are a major marine pollutant. However, their presence in the air has become a growing concern due to potential health risks.

Japanese researchers are leading studies on airborne microplastics, confirming their presence in clouds and snow. These particles can be ingested into the human body and potentially enter the bloodstream.

Hiroshi Okochi, professor of environmental chemistry at Waseda University, and Hiroshi Ono, associate professor at Hokkaido's Kitami Institute of Technology, are at the forefront of this research.

Microplastics are produced when plastic waste breaks down due to ultraviolet light, wind, and waves. They are harmful to organisms because their large surface area allows them to absorb and transport toxic substances. When ingested, these chemicals can enter the food chain, damaging ecosystems and human health.

Okochi's team demonstrated that microplastics were present in cloud water collected from Mt. Fuji and other locations. These particles become less water-repellent due to UV degradation, potentially acting as condensation nuclei for cloud formation.

Okochi believes that airborne microplastics originate from both land and ocean sources, with marine microplastics blown inland by typhoons and monsoons.

Ono, specializing in cryology, discovered microplastics in snow samples collected from various locations in Hokkaido. These particles included polyethylene from plastic containers, likely transported through the air.

Microplastics in the atmosphere are smaller than those in the ocean but deteriorate more quickly due to UV exposure. Inhaled microplastics can accumulate in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, posing potential health risks.

Research on airborne microplastics is still in its early stages, with limited understanding of their actual severity and health impacts. Further research is needed to clarify these risks and develop mitigation strategies.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09