Microplastic pollution has been detected in snow near the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. With plastic waste unveiled in 2018 at the deepest point on Earth, Mariana Trench, it is now clear that humanity’s litter has polluted the entire planet.
The small plastic fibers were found within a few hundred meters from the top of the 8,850 meter high mountain in a place known as the balcony. Microplastics were found in all snow samples collected from 1
The highest concentrations of microplastics were found around Base Camp, where climbers and hikers spend the most time. The fibers had probably come from the clothing, tents and ropes used by mountaineers, the researchers said. Other recent discoveries of microplastic pollution in remote parts of the Swiss Alps and French Pyrenees indicate that the particles can also be carried by the wind further away.
“It really surprised me to find microplastics in every single snow sample I analyzed,” said Imogen Napper of the University of Plymouth, who led the new research. “Mount Everest is a place that I have always considered remote and untouched. Knowing that we pollute near the top of the highest mountain is a real eye opener. ”
“With microplastics so ubiquitous in our environment, it’s time to focus on appropriate environmental solutions,” she said. “We need to protect and take care of our planet.”
Reducing, reusing and reusing larger objects of plastic waste is important, Napper said, as they can degrade into microplastics when thrown into the environment. However, many microplastics come from clothing made from synthetic fabrics, and she said there was a need to focus on better fabrics, as well as using natural fibers like cotton whenever possible.
Millions of tonnes of plastic are lost to the environment every year. It can contain toxic additives and carry harmful microbes and is known to harm wildlife, failing it as food.
People also eat microplastics through food and water and inhale them, although health consequences are not yet known.
There have been long-standing concerns about bedding on Everest, which was climbed by at least 880 people in 2019. But the new study is the first to assess microplastic contamination that is less than 5 mm in size and therefore too small to be collected.
The study, published in the journal One Earth, analyzed samples collected by a National Geographic expedition in 2019. The researchers found an average of 30 microplastic particles per year. Liter of water in the snow samples and 119 particles per. Liter in the most contaminated sample. They also assessed water for water samples from eight sites, but only three had microplastics, perhaps when the streams were able to wash away pollution.
In his previous work, Napper has found that each cycle in a washing machine can release 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers, and that plastic bags that claim to be biodegradable were still intact after three years in the natural environment.