Tiny fragments of microplastic have been discovered in the Pyrenees mountains of southern France, blown there and deposited by the wind, scientists reported Monday, writes USA Today.
Scientists were able to determine that the microplastics – which is plastic that’s less than five millimeters in length – came from at least 60 miles away.
“It was incredible how much microplastic was being deposited,” French researcher Deonie Allen told National Geographic. “Microplastics are a new atmospheric pollutant,” she said.
In the new study, over a period of five months, scientists found substantial amounts of microplastic fragments, along with film and fiber debris. The researchers determined that 365 microplastic particles per square meter dropped from the sky each day.
Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic waste that have been found in rivers, oceans and pristine polar regions. But until this research, there had been a lack of information about whether microplastic pollution could travel through the atmosphere. According to Science magazine, the tiny particles of microplastic may travel much farther than 60 miles:
“Dust particles from the Sahara Desert, for example, have been found in the Pyrenees, even though they are twice as large and twice as heavy as the microplastics found in the study,” Science said.
Unfortunately, the tiny plastic pieces are nearly impossible to clean up, so the only realistic solution is to produce less.