Microplastics are accumulating in the most remote parts of Earth, including deep in Artic ice and even fresh Arctic snowfall.
A team of researchers led by University of Rhode Island’s Brice Loose found “a disturbing amount of plastic” in ice cores along the Northeast Passage, according to an August 15, 2019 press release.
“It was kind of a punch to the stomach to see what looked like a normal sea ice core in such a beautiful pristine environment but just chock-full of this material, which is completely foreign to the environment,” University of Rhode Island’s Associate Professor of Oceanography Brice Loose stated.
While this isn’t the first time microplastics have been found in Arctic ice, Loose says the findings stress the ubiquity of ocean plastic. In a study published on August 14, 2019 in journal Science Advances, scientists say they found microplastics in Arctic snowfall. But these plastics didn’t come from sea water—instead they polluted the snow by traveling through the atmosphere.
Snowfall can efficiently capture microplastics, so scientists sampled snow in Germany, the Arctic, and the Swiss Alps. These samples revealed high concentrations of microplastics. Samples from Germany also contained as many as 154,000 plastic particles.
Since microplastic contamination is prevalent deep in the ocean, scientists worry that newly discovered species can never be studied in an uncontaminated state.