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Record number of microplastics in Arctic ice

Record number of microplastics in Arctic ice

Sea ice can temporarily hold pollutants like plastic and transport them across the Arctic Ocean. The thawing caused by global warming will release large amounts of microplastics into the sea causing serious environmental damage.

A group of German scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute of the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) has found a record amount of microplastic, 12,000 particles per liter, trapped in Arctic sea ice. The finding has raised concerns about the impact on marine life and human health.

Samples taken during the investigation found packaging materials such aspolyethylene and polypropylene, fragments ofcontainers, paints, nylon, polyester and cellulose acetate, mainly used to make cigarette filters. In total, the researchers identified17 different types of plastic on sea ice.

The origin of these plastics

Researchers estimate that the origin of these microplastics comes from the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean (GPGP) and the marginal seas of Siberia for their high percentages of paint particles from ships and nylon debris from nets. fishing.

The ice drums moving across the Pacific off the Canadian Basin contain particularly high concentrations of polyethylene particles. The researchers assume that these fragments are the remains of the GPGP that are pushed along the Bering Strait and into the Arctic.

"The high concentrations of microplastics in sea ice cannot be attributed solely to sources outside the Arctic Ocean," noted Dr. Ilka Peeken, one of the study's authors, adding: Instead, they also point to local contamination in the Arctic. .

According to Peeken, sea ice unites all this plastic debris in a period of between two to a maximum of 11 years, which is the time it takes for the ice drums of the marginal seas of Siberia or the North American Arctic to reach the Strait of Fram , where they melt.

Increasing environmental hazard

PMs are recognized as a growing environmental hazard and have been identified even in remote polar regions, with particularly high concentrations of microplastics in sea ice. Plastic represents 73% of marine debris.

The scientists warned that the implications of this level of plastic pollution, both for marine life and for human health, are still unknown. "No one can say for sure how harmful these tiny plastic particles are to marine life, or ultimately humans as well," Peeken concluded.

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