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Synthetic fibers discovered in Antarctic air, seawater, sediment and sea ice

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A polarized microscopy image of the polyester textile fibers found in the sample. Credit: Nekton.

As countries meet in Uruguay to negotiate a new global plastics treaty, marine scientists and forensic scientists this week found synthetic plastic fibers in air, seawater, sediment and sea ice sampled in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea. announced new results revealing that The field survey was carried out during an expedition to find Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance.The results were published in a journal Frontiers of marine science.

Fibrous polyester, mainly from textiles, was found in all samples. Most of the confirmed microplastic fibers were found in Antarctic air samples, revealing that Antarctic animals and seabirds may breathe them.

“The problem of microplastic fibers is also an airborne problem that extends to the last remaining pristine environment on earth,” said co-author Professor Lucy Woodall of the University of Oxford, Nekton’s chief scientist. says. “Synthetic fibers are the most prevalent form of microplastic pollution globally, and tackling this issue must be at the center of negotiations on the Plastics Convention,” said Professor Woodall in 2014. revealed for the first time the prevalence of plastic in

Modeling analysis of air trajectories revealed that areas with high numbers of fibers were associated with winds from southern South America. This finding suggests that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and its associated polar front are not acting as an impenetrable barrier that would have prevented microplastics from entering the Antarctic region, as previously thought. clarifying.

“Ocean currents and wind are the vectors by which plastic pollution moves across the planet and even to the most remote corners of the world.” provide further evidence of

The team also found that the concentration of microplastics was much higher in sea ice than in other sample types. It has been.

“Sea ice is mobile, can travel vast distances, and reach permanent ice shelves in Antarctica, where it can be trapped indefinitely along with collected microplastic pollutants. There is,” said co-lead author Dr. Mánus Cunningham, a Nekton research scientist in Oxford. of research. “Combining the acquisition of microplastics on sea ice over several years and their seasonal variation, he believes that he could be considered one of the temporary sinks and major transport sources of microplastics within the Antarctic region. ,” concluded Dr. Cunningham.

Synthetic fibers found in Antarctic air, seawater, sediments and sea ice make 'primitive' continent a positive sink

Density separation process during microplastic analysis of samples from the Weddell Sea Expedition.Credit: Nekton

The Weddell Sea Expedition also conducted extensive research on sediment samples taken at depths of 323 to 530 meters below sea level. “The discovery of microplastics in marine sediment samples provides evidence of subduction of plastics in the deep Antarctic Ocean,” he said.

“Once again, we know that wind, ice and ocean currents carry plastic pollution great distances. shows in.”

Scientific and forensic experts from the University of Oxford in Nekton and collaborative research institutes (University of Staffordshire, University of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela University) analyzed the study samples using a variety of investigative methods. These include optical (polarized light microscopy), chemical (Raman spectroscopy) investigation techniques, and even special “crime scene” adhesive tapes for identifying polymer types. A technique called air mass back trajectory analysis was used for the modeling analysis.

“Our use of a forensic approach had two key advantages: an improved method for both reducing and monitoring possible procedural contamination in the samples, and the type of polymer As well as allowing for a more in-depth characterization of microplastics, we now have a better understanding of the number of microplastics available from possible sources. We encourage future research to take advantage of forensic approaches.

According to the research team, the findings raise the urgency for a binding, globally agreed treaty to prevent microplastics from entering the environment, especially the oceans. Before discussing a global plastics treaty, they urge policy makers to:

  • Reduce plastic pollution and production globally by creating a strong global plastics treaty based on national and regional initiatives.
  • Aligning plastic reduction actions with natural and social goals to achieve multiple positive outcomes for society.
  • Empower local communities to jointly develop and use programs that support complete lifecycle solutions for plastic waste management.

They add that stakeholders can also do their part by adopting simple lifestyle habits to reduce synthetic microfiber pollution.

  1. Please put water in the washing machine. The more space you have to move around during the wash, the more microfiber shedding.
  2. Wash at 30°C: Gentle cycles and low temperatures reduce shedding of microfibers.
  3. Ditch the dryer: Tumble dryers produce about 40 times more microfibers than washing machines.
  4. Washing machine microfiber captures such as GuppyFriend (guppyfriend.com) or collabor (www.coraball.com).
  5. Choose natural fibres, such as organic natural fibres, such as cotton, linen, and hemp.
  6. Avoid microfiber cleaning cloths and use natural alternatives.
  7. Wash textiles less often

For more information:
Eoghan M. Cunningham et al., Transport and fate of microplastic fibers in Antarctica: the role of multiple global processes, Frontiers of marine science (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2022.1056081

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Quote: Synthetic fibers found in Antarctic air, seawater, sediment and sea ice (23 November 2022) will be released on 23 November 2022 at https://phys.org/news/2022-11-synthetic Taken from -fibers-antrctic-air-seawater.html

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