Thursday 15 April 2021

The equivalent of 120 million plastic water bottles fell onto the USA over 14 months

The title sounds ridiculous but the science is undeniable. A new study in the journal Science discovered that over a 14 month period more than 1000 metric tons of micro-plastic particles fell onto 11 protected areas in the Western US each year. 

Microplastics. Photo: Pixabay.

This is the equivalent of over 120 million plastic water bottles. To put it another way: it's raining plastic. Micro-plastics come from the sea where they are taken up into the atmosphere and ultimately dumped over land. The world is not taking plastic seriously enough but if we don't deal with the problem there will be serious implications for human health. We have to include animal health and domestic animal health in particular.

Fairly soon it is hoped that people will start taking plastic rain seriously in the same way that they took acid rain and fossil fuels seriously. Over the next 10 years we are going to be talking more about the impact of plastics, particularly micro-plastics and their impact on human health.

Concerned people will have seen marine wildlife killed by ingesting plastic bags or seagulls eating bits of plastic believing that they are foods. They even feed plastic particles to their offspring. Whales have been killed by hundreds of pounds of plastic bags in their bellies. But not enough discussion has taken place about plastic rain.

Today's problem is the result of a carelessness with respect to the disposal of plastic in the environment over a period of about 70 years. And over the past 10 years there has been an explosion of single-use plastic. Some of these plastics have not worked through the system yet. This points to a huge problem in the future.

At present we don't have a way of filtering micro-plastics from the soil. Every human organ studied by scientists contain micro-plastics. Scientists have found micro-plastics in the most remote places in the oceans. It seems that every square metre of every ocean contains hundreds of thousands of micro-plastic particles.

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