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Media opportunity: Researchers find tiny microplastics litter atmospheric superhighway, suggesting the particles swirl around the environment in a continual cycle

Posted by Communications and Marketing on December 22, 2021 in News

Microplastics from packaging, clothing and other sources have been detected in the pristine air of the high French Pyrenees, according to research out of Dalhousie University that suggests there is no final resting place for the tiny plastic particles, only temporary stops before they move again in a continual cycle.

An international team of researchers led by a Dalhousie University researcher sampled air 2,877 meters above sea level at the Pic du Midi Observatory in the French Pyrenees, known as a "clean station" because of the limited influence exerted on it by the local environment.

They tested 10,000 cubic metres of air per week between June and October of 2017 and found all samples contained microplastics -- tiny plastic fragments less than five millimeters in diameter.

Their findings are published in Nature Communications.

Dr. Steve Allen, an Ocean Frontier Institute researcher in Dalhousie’s Department of Earth Sciences, led the project that determined the captured particles came from as far away as North Africa and North America, based on the trajectories of different air masses. They also sourced the microplastics to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, suggesting plastic that leaves the ocean can reach high altitudes.

Dr. Allen is available to discuss the findings and how the presence of microplastics in the free troposphere -- an atmospheric superhighway above the clouds -- means they can likely travel greater distances and reach more remote parts of the planet.


Media contact:
Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services
Dalhousie University
Cell: 1-902-220-0491


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