Microplastic pollution in the freshwaters of the Earth's poles

Microplastics have been found to persist in the environment in large quantities, especially in marine and aquatic ecosystems

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Microplastic pollution in the freshwaters of the Earth's poles

Microplastics have been found to persist in the environment in large quantities, especially in marine and aquatic ecosystems. This is because plastic deforms but does not break over many years, can be ingested and accumulated in the body and in the tissues of many organisms.

The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment has not yet been studied in depth mainly due to the difficulty of analyzing a mixture of various types of more or less inert plastics. Microplastics pose a serious threat to small marine living beings, which tend to feed on them by mistaking them for plankton.

These minor organisms are in turn inserted into the food chain and being ingested by larger living beings and their predators. The chain can continue until it reaches our tables. Controlling the release of these plastics into the environment therefore means safeguarding marine fauna.

Many marine animals such as seagulls or seals have ingested microplastics, affecting health.

Microplastic pollution in the freshwaters of the Earth's poles

A plastic world: A review of microplastic pollution in the freshwaters of the Earth's poles, a study published on the The Science of the total environment, explained: "Microplastic (MP) pollution is of great environmental concern.

MPs have been found all over the Earth, including in the poles, which is indicative for the important threat they constitute. Yet, while the ocean is object of major interest, the data available in the literature about MP pollution in the freshwaters of the Earth's poles are still limited.

Here, we review the current knowledge of MP pollution in the freshwaters of the Arctic, Antarctica and Third Pole, and we assess its ecological implications. This review highlights the presence of MPs in the lakes, rivers, snow, and glaciers of the investigated sites, questions the transport patterns through which MPs reach these remote areas, and illustrates that MP pollution is a real problem not only in marine systems, but also in the freshwater environments of the Earth's poles.MPs can indeed be ingested by animals and can physically damage their digestive tracts, as well as escalate the trophic levels.

MPs can also alter microbial communities by serving as surfaces onto which microbes can grow and develop, and can enhance ice melting when trapped in glaciers. Hence, considered the limited data available, we encourage more research on the theme."