Arctic ice is full of cigarette butts and plastic packaging

© Mario Tama/Getty Images Scientists have said the Arctic has been one of the hardest hit places in the world by climate change.

New York Daily News

April 26,2018

Up to three times the amount of previously recorded plastic was recently discovered in multiple different locations of sea ice across the Arctic.

Up to 12,000 fragments of plastic packaging materials, nylon, polyester, paint and a common cigarette filter ingredient were found in every single sampling of ice that researchers from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research took during their expedition from 2014 to 2015.

“Microplastic particles were found throughout all cores sampled,” sea ice physicist Dr. Jeremy Wilkinson told The Guardian. It suggests that microplastics are now ubiquitous within the surface waters of the world’s ocean. Nowhere is immune.”

Some of the particles were only 11 micrometers across, the study said, enabling the concentration of these plastics to reach such astronomical levels.

“That’s roughly one-sixth the diameter of a human hair,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Gunnar Gerdts, said. “(It) explains why we found concentrations of more than 12,000 particles per liter of sea ice – which is two to three times higher than what we’d found in past measurements.”

The study warned that the ultimate toll these plastics may take on the health human life is unknown. But the issue of marine plastic pollution in the animal food chain has been well recorded. Plastic is often deadly when confused for food by animals like seals, whales, fish and sharks.

“No one can say for certain how harmful these tiny plastic particles are for marine life, or ultimately also for human beings,” co-author Dr. Ilka Peeken said.

Broken down and degraded fishing equipment and pollution from thousands of miles away seem to be the main culprits and contributors of the plastic buildup in the Arctic. But some scientists believe that pollution taking place on the Earth’s northernmost polar region is to blame as well.

“The high microplastic concentrations in the sea ice can not only be attributed to sources outside the Arctic Ocean,” Peeken said. “Instead they point to local pollution in the Arctic.”


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