Transported by the air, pieces of plastic were found in the Alps and the Arctic.

The problem of plastic waste is no longer confined to rivers and oceans. The white flakes on the slopes are not always what you believe. Tiny plastic particles, transported by wind and then dumped by snow, have been detected in the Arctic and the Alps, according to a study that calls for urgent research to assess the health risks of this discovery.

"Most of the microplastics in the snow come from the air"

A new study released Wednesday revealed that microplastic particles can also be transported over long distances in the atmosphere.

These debris less than five millimeters in length are then dumped away from their place of origin by precipitation, especially snow, discovered scientists from the German Institute Alfred Wegener and the Swiss Institute for Snow Research. and avalanches.

"It's obvious that most of the microplastics in the snow come from the air," said Melanie Bergmann, lead author of the article in the American journal Science Advances.

An infrared imaging technique to analyze samples

Melanie Bergmann and her colleagues used an infrared imaging technique to analyze samples collected between 2015 and 2017 on floating ice in the Fram Strait, off Greenland.

They were then compared to samples from the remote Swiss Alps and Bremen in northwestern Germany. Microparticle concentrations in the Arctic were significantly lower than in European sites, but still significant.

The researcher said little work has been done to determine the effects of exposure to these particles. "But once we have determined that large quantities of microplastics can also be transported by air, the question naturally arises as to whether and to what extent we are inhaling them," she said, stressing the need for urgently carry out research on the effects on human and animal health.