Windborne Microplastics Are Everywhere

New research has shown that microplastics rain down on the pristine peaks of the Pyrenees mountains.

Miquel Fabre / Flickr

Plastic gets around. Previously, researchers had discovered fragments of microplastics in the world's most remote locations, like the depths of the Marianas Trench and Antarctica. New research has shown that microplastics rain down on the pristine peaks of the Pyrenees mountains.

The researchers found a daily rate of plastic pollution falling from the sky in the Pyrenees was comparable to the amount raining down on Paris and Dongguan, a large industrial city in China, NPR reported.

"It was incredible how much microplastic was being deposited," said Deonie Allen, a researcher at EcoLab in the School of Agricultural and Life Sciences in Toulouse, France, as reported by National Geographic. There were no obvious sources for the microplastics within 60 miles, said Allen, the lead author of the study published Monday in Nature Geoscience.

The study is the first of its kind to show the how far microplastics can travel on the wind. Scientists had previously thought that atmospheric microplastic pollutants would rise up and settle again near the cities and industrial hubs where they originated.

The researchers looked at computer models of wind patterns to pinpoint the source of the microplastics, but none was found within a 60-mile radius of the region — which is sparsely populated and without commercial, industrial or large agricultural centers. While scientists know how dust gets blown and travels from the Sahara to Europe, they know very little about how microplastics move.

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