Microplastics found in remote glaciers for the first time and came from hiking gear, say scientists

Strolling a walk

There could be 162 million plastic particles across the entire Forni glacier40 per cent may have blown over from nearby settlements and towns and cities The other 40 per cent likely came from outdoor clothing made for harsh climatesThe only way to avoid this is to only wear natural cotton and wood, say scientists 

Microplastics have been found in glaciers for the first time ever. 

Evidence of the tiny plastic fragments were discovered in the Alps, confirming their widespread contamination of the Earth’s natural resources. 

Microplastics are defined as plastic particles measuring less than 0.2 inches (five millimetres) and it is thought that most of the microplastics arrived via hikers visiting the region.

Previously, they have shown up in remote regions such as the Arctic, and the same researchers have now located them in the Forni Glaciers in Switzerland.  

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For the first time, microplastics have been found in mountain glaciers, confirming their widespread contamination of natural resources. Previously, they appeared in the Arctic, and researchers have now located them in the Forni Glaciers (pictured) in Switzerland

Based on the 75 particles found in sediment samples from the glaciers, it was been estimated that there could be 162 million plastic particles across the entire Forni glacier.  

Most of the plastics found are fibres rather than plastic fragments and therefore indicate they came from clothing rather than plastic bottles. 

While some of the microplastics are likely to have been blown from nearby towns and cities, the scientists say that the only way depositing microplastics could be entirely avoided is to only wear natural fibres, like cotton, and wooden shoes. 

Most outdoor wear for hikers to the region are designed for low temperatures and high altitudes are a mixture of synthetic and natural fibres. 

The Forni glacier where the sediments were collected is a 6 km long glacier in the Bregaglia Range in the region Graub√ľnden in south-east Switzerland very close to Italy. 

It has an elevation of roughly 12,000 feet (3,678m).

The researchers found polyamide, polypropylene and polyethylene among them. 

The current study was conducted by Dr Roberto Sergio Azzoni at the University of Milan and his team. 

Previously, microparticles have shown up in remote regions such as the arctic, where the process of freezing and melting sea ice makes it a good transporter of plastic particles


Previously, microplastics have shown up in remote regions such as the Arctic, and researchers have now located them in the Forni Glaciers in Switzerland. 

The process of freezing and melting sea ice in the Arctic makes it a particularly good transporter of plastic particles.

Even larvaceans found in the sea have been shown to provide a pathway for transporting microplastics into deep-sea food webs.  

Plastic pollution on Earth is set to double by 2030, threatening wildlife and human health.   

Recent expeditions to collect samples in the Arctic found record levels of microplastics and fragments that included polyethylene, nylon, polyester and cellulose acetate.

High levels of paint and nylon particles were also obtained.

Environmental charity WWF International has warned plastic waste in the oceans could reach 300 million tons in just over a decade.

That would double the amount of plastic in the ocean, which took more than half a century to build up between 1950 and 2016.

Almost a third of all plastics produced, or 104 million tons annually, will find their way into the oceans and natural world.

The latest findings from the mountain glaciers will be presented at the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna, Austria this week. WHAT ARE MICROPLASTICS AND HOW DO THEY GET INTO OUR WATERWAYS?

Microplastics are plastic particles measuring less than five millimetres (0.2 inches).

They have hit the headlines over recent years, as improper disposal has resulted in tonnes of waste making its way into the ocean.

Each year, tonnes of plastic waste fails to get recycled and dealt with correctly, which can mean they end up in marine ecosystems. 

Although it’s unclear exactly how they end up in the water, microplastics may enter through simple everyday wear and tear of clothing and carpets.

Tumble dryers may also be a source, particularly if they have a vent to the open air. 

Plastics don’t break down for thousands of years and it is estimated that there are already millions of items of plastic waste in the oceans. This number is expected to rise. 

Studies have also revealed 700,000 plastic fibres could be released into the atmosphere with every washing machine cycle.

Current water systems are unable to effectively filter out all microplastic contamination, due to the varying size of particles.  

The amount of plastic rubbish in the world’s oceans will outweigh fish by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to further recycle, a report released in 2016 revealed.

More than 80 per cent of the world’s tap water is contaminated with plastic, research published in September 2017 revealed.

The US has the highest contamination rate at 93 per cent, followed by Lebanon and India, experts from the University of Minnesota found.

France, Germany and the UK have the lowest levels, however, they still come in at 72 per cent.

Overall, 83 per cent of water samples from dozens of nations around the world contain microplastics.

Scientists warn microplastics are so small they could penetrate organs. 

Bottled water may not be a safer alternative, as scientists have found contaminated samples.

Creatures of all shapes and sizes have been found to have consumed the plastics, whether directly or indirectly.

Previous research has also revealed microplastics absorb toxic chemicals, which are then released in the gut of animals.

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