Researchers in Japan have confirmed the presence of tiny plastic particles in clouds that could lead to climate changes in ways that are not yet fully understood.
The scientists targeted Mount Fuji and Mount Oyama to collect water from the clouds surrounding their summits as part of a study published in the journal “Environmental Chemistry Letters.”
In their study, the scientists wrote, “To our knowledge, this is the first time the presence of fine plastic particles suspended in cloudwater has been confirmed.”
Using advanced imaging techniques, the researchers identified 9 different types of polymers and one type of rubber in the fine plastic materials present in the atmosphere, with sizes ranging from 7.1 to 94.6 micrometers.
The lead author of the study, Hiroshi Okochi, stated in a press release on Wednesday, “If we do not proactively address the issue of plastic air pollution, climate change and environmental risks could become a harsh reality, causing serious and irreparable environmental damage in the future.”
Hiroshi Okochi explained that microplastics degrade and release greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change when they reach the upper atmosphere and are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Microplastics, which are particles smaller than 5 millimeters, come from industrial waste, textiles, car tires, or personal care products.
These small fragments are present in Arctic ice caps, the snow of the Pyrenees mountains, and even in living organisms in the four corners of the planet.
However, the way these particles move to these locations is still relatively unknown, especially their entry into the atmosphere.
Moreover, data on the health effects of exposure to microplastic particles remains insufficient, but studies have begun to suggest links to certain diseases, in addition to their environmental consequences.