Nanoplastics found in polar ice, says Utrecht Univ. researchers
An international team of scientists including researchers from Utrecht University was the first to identify nanoplastics in polar ice, according to a press release from the university. Their findings show that ice in both the North and South Poles is contaminated with the tiny plastic particles.
The team of researchers used new methods to measure nanoplastics, which are tiny fragments of plastic invisible to the naked eye caused by the breakdown of plastic products. The research found the nanoplastics in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica.
Some of the polluting material dated back to the 1960s. However, because nanoplastics are so difficult to measure, their presence was unclear until now. The researchers said they were surprised to find significant quantities of nanoplastics in their samples, especially in the relatively untouched regions of the North and South Poles.
“Now we know that nanoplastics are transported to these corners of the Earth in these quantities,” said Dušan Materić, a researcher at Utrecht University and lead author of the study. “This indicates that nanoplastics is really a bigger pollution problem than we thought.”
More than half of the nanoplastic particles were from polyethylene, the most commonly-used plastic today. In addition, significant amounts of the particles came from tires.
Materić emphasized that organisms have been exposed to nanoplastics for several decades now and urged more research into the extent of the pollution and nanoplastic toxicity in the future.