Even Antarctic Snow Can’t Escape The Plastic Peril, Study Shows

Environmental News from Antarctica: 

  • A study presents new evidence that microplastics are present in snow in Antarctica, one of the remotest places on Earth.
  • Researchers collected snow samples at 19 sites across the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, and found 29 microplastic particles per liter of melted snow — a higher amount than what was found in marine samples in Antarctica.
  • The microplastics found in samples close to research stations were three times higher than what was found at other locations, prompting researchers to conclude that much of the plastic was coming from local clothing and equipment.

Plastic has been found in the most unexpected places: in the deepest parts of the ocean, in the remote mountain air, in human blood. And now, it’s even been found in snow in Antarctica.

A new study published in The Cryosphere is the first to document snow-bound microplastics — tiny particles measuring up to 5 millimeters, about the size of a short grain of rice — in a part of the world that’s long been considered to be one of the last remaining wilderness, still largely unaltered by human activity. This study, however, illustrates the unlikelihood that there are any places on Earth that haven’t been touched by plastic.

The researchers collected freshly fallen snow from 19 sites across the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and found 29 microplastic particles per liter of melted snow, which is a higher concentration than what other scientists have found in samples taken from the Ross Sea as well as Antarctic sea ice, the study says.

Lead author Alex Aves, a Ph.D. student at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said she was “very surprised” to find microplastics in the snow samples. Both she and her supervisor, Laura Revell, an associate professor of environmental physics at the University of Canterbury and co-author of the paper, said they actually expected not to find any plastic on the Ross Ice Shelf due to its remoteness.

“It really just shows that microplastics are everywhere,” Aves told Mongabay in an email.

To read top environmental news from Antarctica, please visit 

Source: Mongabay