Microplastics in the ocean: what are the risks now?



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Microplastics in the ocean: what are the risks now?

According to the results provided by the University of Strathclyde, the microplastics in the ocean could be transferred to the air through the process of expelling the bubbles and the action of the waves, for example from strong winds or turbulent seas.

Previous studies had already shown that microplastics can be transported by the wind for long distances into the atmosphere. The international research team has found evidence that microplastics could be expelled from the sea with waves, wind and splashes, releasing aerosols into the atmosphere that transports the microplastics back to the mainland.

Steve Allen, of the Center for water, environment, sustainability and public health of the Department of civil and environmental engineering of the University of Strathclyde, says that the sea breeze has traditionally been considered clean air, but this study shows that it carries surprising quantities of microplastic.

It seems that some plastic particles could leave the sea and enter the atmosphere together with sea salt, bacteria, viruses and algae. We do not know much about the effect of these oceanic patches on humans, but an increasing number of studies are showing that there is a potential danger deriving from the inhalation of microplastic particles.

Is the sea breeze also dangerous for the environment and for people? Today this is probably one of the questions to which scientists and experts will have to find an answer because, as in an infinite circle, the ocean is filling up with microplastics, which will be brought back to earth by the same waters.

Fragments and microplastic fibers have been found in marine aerosols, which distribute the pollution between ocean and land. According to data from the same plastics industries, around 359 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide in 2018 and some estimates suggest that, every year, about 10% of all plastic produced ends up at sea.

Awareness of the risks to the biodiversity of seas and oceans is raising people's sensibility, but the majority believe that the plastic that ends up in the oceans remains there. Thanks to the study Examination of the ocean as a source for atmospheric microplastics, it was discovered that hundreds of thousands of tons of microplastics could be blown ashore by the ocean breeze every year.