Airborne microplastics found in “pristine” French Pyrenees

Nicolas guionnet, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists have found airborne microplastics in the “pristine” French Pyrenees, a significant discovery that may offer an explanation for how they have also been found at the Poles.

An international research team has found microplastics at high altitudes on the Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2,877 metres) in the French Pyrenees, according to a publication in the Nature Communications journal. Microplastics have previously been found in oceans, rivers and snow.

Scientists from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Université Grenoble Alpes (France) and the University of Strathclyde (UK) analysed the composition of 10,000 m3 of air captured weekly via a pump installed at the Pic du Midi Observatory, and they found a concentration of microplastics of approximately one particle per 4 m3.

This plastic (for example, polystyrene or polyethylene polymers) comes mainly from packaging. Although it is not a direct threat, its presence so far from the sources of contamination is surprising.

The mathematical models of the trajectories of the masses of air studied by the scientists suggest that the particles originated in Africa, North America or the Atlantic Ocean, which indicates the intercontinental atmospheric transportation of microplastics.

The findings describe a new stage in the life cycle of microplastics and offer an explanation for their presence at the Poles, on Mount Everest or in other remote regions of the planet.


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Tamsin Brown

Originally from London, Tamsin is based in Malaga and is a local reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering Spanish and international news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]