A new research study has reportedly brought the purity of driven snow into question after a team of scientists reportedly discovered microplastics inside freshly fallen snow samples collected in Antarctica for the first time.
While tiny pieces or fragments of plastic from everyday items have earlier been discovered in seawater and ice and even humans, this is the first time they have been encountered in fresh snowfall.
The study, which was published in The Cryosphere, a leading scientific journal, identified an average of 29 particles of microplastic per liter of melted snow, highlighting the magnitude of plastic contamination globally.
The percentage was even higher than what had previously been recorded in the Ross Sea as well as Antarctic Sea ice.
Concentrations were approximately three times as high in samples collected from areas that were near scientific bases in Antarctica, a phenomenon that has similarly been observed in Italian glacier debris.
Over a dozen different forms of plastic were discovered, with PET, which is commonly used in beverage bottles, being one of the most common.
In late 2019, Alex Aves, a Ph.D. student at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, had gathered samples from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf.
As per Dr. Laura Revell, Alex’s colleagues were positive that she would not detect any microplastics in such a clean and distant place at the time.
Dr. Revell stated that Aves was also told to gather snow from the McMurdo Station roadways and Scott Base, so she'd have some microplastics to test. However, once returned to the lab, it immediately became apparent that there were microplastics in every specimen from the remote places on the Ross Ice Shelf as well, giving the discovery a global significance.
Aves was shocked by the test results and stated that it is extremely upsetting but discovering microplastics in fresh Antarctic snow demonstrates the magnitude of plastic pollution in even the most distant corners of the earth.
Snow samples were taken from 19 locations around Antarctica's Ross Island region, and microplastics were discovered in all of them.