Deadly microplastic pollutes world's oceans, Arctic too breached
Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic by a US-led team of scientists, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet.
A crew member of an oceanic expedition collects the microplastic from the ocean. Every year, several million tonnes of plastic litter course through rivers and out to the oceans, where they are gradually broken down into smaller fragments through the motion of waves and the ultraviolet light of the Sun.
Seen here are the microplastic samples collected from the water body near Singapore during an expedition. These particles, defined as shreds less than five millimeters in length, are later washed out of the air by precipitation, particularly snow.
'Punch in the gut'
Minute microplastic particles have even been detected in the Arctic and the Alps, carried by the wind and later washed out in the snow, according to a new study. Scientists from a US-led project are seen drilling ice cores in the Canadian Arctic during an 18-day expedition that took place in July and August 2019.
The presence of microplastic serves to highlight how the waste problem has reached epidemic proportions. The United Nations estimates that 100 million tons of plastic have been dumped in the oceans to date.
Concentrations of the microparticles in the Arctic were significantly lower than in the European sites, but still substantial.